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Judicial Conduct Reform
To Remove Conflict, Sens. Williams, Schwank Propose Removal of PA Supreme Court’s Power to Appoint Members of JCB, CJD
Williams says House should consider Eakin impeachment proceedings
HARRISBURG, Wednesday, Dec. 9 – State Sens. Anthony Hardy Williams and Judy Schwank today said they have introduced a proposal for a constitutional amendment that would strip the Pennsylvania Supreme Court of its power to appoint members of two judicial oversight boards.[hdvideo id=57]
The proposal follows the revelation that the now formally charged Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin attempted to appoint someone he favored to the Court of Judicial Discipline to review accusations that he transmitted racist, misogynistic and homophobic emails using commonwealth-owned equipment.
The Judicial Conduct Board is the other panel that reviews the behavior of Pennsylvania’s judges.
The JCB, on Tuesday, recommended four counts against Eakin for his role in what Sen. Williams has called “Hategate.”
“The Judicial Conduct Board is heavily influenced by those they are supposed to be investigating,” Williams said today during a Capitol press conference.
Under the proposal for a constitutional amendment to strip the Supreme Court’s authority to appoint members of the JCB and the Court of Judicial Discipline, the lawmakers said Senate Bill 1083, if voters approved, would end the court’s ability to end-run a constitutional process established in 1993.
- The Supreme Court’s authority to appoint members of the Judicial Conduct Board and the Court of Judicial Discipline would be transferred to the governor, who would get two additional appointments to the conduct board; and to the legislature, which would get four appointments to the conduct board and four to the disciplinary court.
- The number of seats held by judges on the conduct board and disciplinary court would be reduced to four from seven.
- The board and court would be funded through a distinct line-item within the judicial budget. And,
- SB 1083 would require the immediate interim suspension of a judge upon the formal filing of disciplinary (such as were just announced against Justice Eakin) or felony charges.
“What we’ve seen recently is that we really need to fix the system to restore public confidence in the courts,” Sen. Schwank said in a statement. “If the public can’t have confidence in them, the system simply cannot work right.”
State Reps. Joanna McClinton and Jordan Harris joined Sen. Williams at this morning’s press conference.
On the possibility for the impeachment of Justice Eakin, Williams said he will talk to members of the state House of Representatives.
“While there’s not been any conclusion and, certainly, Justice Eakin deserves his day in court, the findings themselves – and the activities surrounding this – are very, very important. For those reasons, we expect that members of the House will be interested in the possibility of pursuing those articles of impeachment,” the senator said.
Williams said it’s also problematic that Justice Eakin, according to the Judicial Conduct Board, used his state-issued computer to transmit his hateful emails.
“The JCB’s findings that Justice Eakin used commonwealth-owned equipment to bring disrepute to his office, one of the highest judicial offices in PA, clearly meet the criteria for suspension or removal based on those precedents,” he said.
State Lawmakers Lend Their Voices to Sen. Williams’ Call for Judicial Conduct Reform; Urge AG to Release All Email Addresses in ‘Hategate’
Will formally request legislative hearing
HARRISBURG, Tuesday, Nov. 24 – The call for judicial conduct reform in the wake of the racist, misogynistic and homophobic emails received and forwarded by state Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin grew louder today as more state lawmakers joined state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams in his work to restore integrity and decency in the commonwealth’s prosecutorial and appellate networks.
While re-stating his call for a special prosecutor to decide if criminal charges should be brought in the cover up of Justice Eakin’s handling of the detestable emails, Sen. Williams said the attorney general should release all of the email addresses involved in this matter so the public can get a better understanding of the depth of depravity.
“Published reports throughout Pennsylvania have made it very clear that the people the taxpayers are paying to be fair and partial are anything but that,” Sen. Williams said during a Capitol press conference. “But they don’t know the level to which they dropped.
“Justice Eakin and other top prosecutors laughed at racist images, passed along homophobic emails, and thought it was funny when they looked at a picture of a boy with a dart in his head.
“We suspect there’s more to the story. These hateful emails make it clear that justice is an oxymoron to them.”
Williams said prosecutors need to know who else was on Eakin’s “hategate” email chain. He told reporters he will formally seek a legislative hearing on this subject.
“We believe there are many more people who received and distributed these terrible emails,” the senator said. “If they worked in a position of power and decision making, they also should be held accountable.”
Sen. Williams first called for Justice Eakin’s resignation during an Oct. 27 Capitol press conference. He then called for the removal last week of First Deputy PA Attorney General Bruce Beemer, PA Judicial Conduct Board Chief Counsel Robert Graci, and PA Supreme Court Special Counsel Robert Byer.
Since then, the Philadelphia Daily News said this of the Eakin emails: “Their existence raises serious questions about the mindset, maturity and judgment of people who are supposed to be working to ensure justice for all.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said, “Only an independent outside investigation can get to the bottom of things … Pennsylvania’s judicial system has become its own punchline.”
Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee Chairman Vince Hughes, Lackawanna County Democratic Sen. John Blake, Philadelphia state Reps. Joanna McClinton, and Rosita Youngblood; Delaware County Rep. Margo Davidson; and Dauphin County Rep. Patty Kim joined Sen. Williams at today’s press conference.
Williams said members of the Senate Democratic Caucus support his call for a special prosecutor.
Sen. Williams Steps Up Call for Justice Eakin’s Resignation, Says Graci, Beemer, Byer Must Step Down, Too
Announcement follows high-level meeting with Philly’s civic, religious, community leaders
PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 16, 2015 − Following a meeting with Philadelphia’s community leaders, clergy and civil rights advocates about the email scandal that has ensnared Pennsylvania’s judicial system, state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams this morning re-stated his call for PA Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin to resign, demanded the removal of three other officials, and called for a special prosecutor to investigate the attempted cover up.
Williams said the emails that Justice Eakin sent and received from his state-issued account were more than x-rated.
“This isn’t ‘porngate’,” Sen. Williams said at his press conference following his meeting, “This is ‘hategate.’
“These emails are riddled with hate speech. All of them undermine the integrity of our judiciary and they raise serious questions about Justice Eakin’s impartiality and his common sense, especially as it affects women and minorities.
“Justice Eakin must resign. We need a special prosecutor to conduct a credible investigation, and the legislature must take the required steps to prevent these kinds of racist, misogynist, homophobic expressions from happening on the public’s dime,” Williams said.
Williams, Democratic chairman of the Senate State Government Committee and a ranking member of the Senate Law & Justice Committee, said Eakin wasn’t the only one to reveal himself as, at best, insensitive, and, at worst, racist.
“Eakin’s emails went to district attorneys, public defenders, assistant U.S. attorneys, and a significant number of private attorneys from the Harrisburg area,” Sen. Williams said.
Included in Eakin’s email chain, Williams said, was Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico; judges Bruce Bratton and Bernard Coates Jr.; Dauphin County First Deputy DA Fran Chardo; Chief Public Defender Bradley Winnick; and Chief Deputy Public Defender Greg Mills.
But Sen. Williams listed the “cover-up players” — who reviewed the insulting emails and dismissed them as insignificant, included state Attorney General First Deputy Bruce Beemer, PA Judicial Conduct Board Chief Counsel Robert Graci, and PA Supreme Court Special Counsel Robert Byer.
“Messages circulating in this network were discovered because they were sent to a public email in the attorney general’s office,” the senator said. “The emails contained offensive content that went way beyond being pornographic. They included hate speech that targeted African Americans, Latino Americans, LGBT Americans and Muslims.”
Besides serious judicial reform, Williams said the attorney general’s office must appoint a special prosecutor who has full prosecutorial powers to begin an investigation and help lawmakers in writing new legislation.
Contact: Mark Shade