A top Pennsylvania Senate Democrat said Tuesday he and his Democratic colleagues want a state Supreme Court justice off the bench for allegedly exchanging explicit or offensive emails from a private account.
Senate Minority Whip Anthony Williams of Philadelphia said that the emails either received or sent by Justice Michael Eakin should be enough for Eakin to voluntarily step down.
Eakin, a Republican, has apologized for what he called "insensitive" content in his private email account, but Williams said the damage is done, citing emails that ridiculed women and minorities.
"I feel the pain of people who feel ... when they're in front of a judge that they don't necessarily have fair and equitable treatment and this only erodes that to the standard that they know they don't have fair and equitable treatment," said Williams, who held a press conference to comment on the judge and the emails.
It is inappropriate that Eakin exchanged the emails with prosecutors, and the content was reprehensible, he said.
Eakin did not respond Tuesday to messages, seeking comment, left at his suburban Harrisburg office Tuesday.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, did not return a call for comment on whether Eakin's removal is the position of the entire caucus. The Senate has no power to force a judge from office, and impeachment proceedings would have to start in the House.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane says she turned over more than 1,000 of Eakin's emails to the court and various state ethics agencies four weeks ago and suggested the content violates judicial conduct rules.
The Judicial Conduct Board said it is investigating, and the court hired a Pittsburgh law firm headed by a former judge to look into the matter.
The emails were discovered on the servers of the attorney general's office because either the sender or a recipient had been an employee of the office. In nearly all cases, Eakin is the recipient rather than the sender.
The emails and their attachments are a mixture of photos, text, slide shows and videos. Some released by Kane's office include nude photos and videos of women, raunchy and juvenile humor and other content demeaning to women. One short video clip appears to show, from behind, a man having sex with a hugely obese woman while the music from "Mission Impossible" plays.
Much of the content appeared to be intended as humor.
The Philadelphia Daily News also has reported that it obtained copies of what appeared to be some of Eakin's emails. It described them as sexually explicit, or as mocking gays, women, blacks or Mexicans.
Kane, a Democrat, has tied the email scandal to criminal charges that she leaked secret investigative information to a newspaper and lied about it. She has portrayed herself as the victim of an old boys' club determined to stop her from disclosing details about the emails that involved figures in the state's legal system and law enforcement.