Suspended state Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin will be tried next month in Philadelphia over allegations that he engaged in inappropriate email practices that tainted the reputation of Pennsylvania's court system.
Superior Court Judge Jack A. Panella, who is also conference judge for the state's Court of Judicial Discipline, scheduled Eakin's ethics trial for March 29 in an order issued Tuesday. The setting will be Courtroom 612 in Philadelphia City Hall.
In choosing that site, Panella noted the courtroom is "high-tech equipped" so emails Eakin sent or received can be shown on a video screen during the trial, which will be open to the public.
Eakin is on the hot seat in the so-called Porngate scandal, for being part of an email chain that passed on what critics contend were offensive message that were sexist and racist.
Eakin, a former Superior court judge and Cumberland County district attorney, has apologized for his email activity, but argued that his online actions don't warrant discipline. In December, a three-judge panel of the Court of Judicial Discipline suspended him with pay over the emails.
The stakes will be high for Eakin when he enters that courtroom in Philly. If the disciplinary court rules against him he will face punishment, including possible removal from the state's highest court.
The 67-year-old Republican was elected to the Supreme Court in 2001 and won retention in 2011. By law, Pennsylvania judges must retire at age 70, although there is a push to extend that cut-off to age 75.
Eakin is one of the highest officials to come under scrutiny in Porngate, which was triggered by emails Attorney General Kathleen Kane uncovered while reviewing the handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case. A fellow Justice, Seamus P. McCaffrey, was suspended and then retired in 2014 after disclosure of his questionable emails.
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Justice Eakin's trial over Porngate emails scheduled for March 29 in Philly