Eakin asks permission to present proposed resolution in email controversy
Justice Michael Eakin is scheduled for trial before the state Court of Judicial Discipline for allegations of improper emails on March 29.
March 8, 2016 11:29 PM
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin and his wife Heidi Eakin walk through the hallways of the Pittsburgh City County Building on Feb. 25.
Attorney William Costopoulos speaks about his client, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin on Feb. 25.
By Paula Reed Ward / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Attorneys for suspended state Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin have asked the Court of Judicial Discipline if they can present, in open court, an agreement they’ve reached with the Judicial Conduct Board to resolve an investigation of his receipt and sending of improper emails.
Justice Eakin filed a motion with the court Tuesday in which he requests that the entire panel sit to hear the proposed resolution, as well as the “reasons supporting its consideration and acceptance by the court.”
The motion notes that the mediation process was facilitated by Philadelphia attorney Richard Sprague, who was asked by Judicial Discipline Judge Jack Panella to lead negotiations in a letter dated Jan. 22. The process, the motion continues, lasted nearly a month and was costly.
In requesting a hearing on their proposed resolution, Justice Eakin’s attorneys said he ought to have the same due process rights as “those charged with the most atrocious crimes have; to wit, that their negotiated dispositions are read in open court, that the parties may present their reasons in support thereof, and after due consideration, the assigned judge may approve of the proposed agreement.”
The parties were called to Pittsburgh on Feb. 25 for a hearing before a three-judge panel of the court, at which time they believed they would be discussing their agreed-upon resolution. However, Judge Panella repeatedly cut off attorney William Costopoulos, representing Justice Eakin, as well as Francis Puskas, of the Judicial Conduct Board. Instead of letting them address the possible resolution, Judge Panella told them that he was interested only in making sure the process was open and fair, and that the point of that day’s proceedings was simply to see if the parties would agree to stipulate to certain facts prior to trial.
Now, Justice Eakin’s trial is scheduled for March 29 in Philadelphia, but last week, attorneys for the Judicial Conduct Board asked that the case be heard in Harrisburg, because that is where the majority of participants and witnesses live.
The resolution, if accepted, would negate the need for the disciplinary trial, which, if the accusations against him were upheld, could lead to action up to and including his removal from the bench.
Justice Eakin was suspended in December following allegations that he sent emails containing racist and misogynistic words and images. The emails were released by state Attorney General Kathleen Kane after she was accused of releasing confidential grand jury transcripts. She faces criminal charges in Montgomery County.
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