The court's action followed disclosures last week by Chief Justice Ronald Castille, a Republican, that McCaffery had sent or received 234 emails with sexually explicit content or pornography from late 2008 to May 2012
(HARRISBURG, Pa) — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday suspended one of its members over his participation in a state government pornographic email scandal that involved employees of the attorney general’s office.
The court justices issued an order saying Justice Seamus McCaffery may not perform any judicial or administrative duties while the matter is reviewed by the Judicial Conduct Board, which investigates allegations of judicial misconduct.
The main order also noted allegations about McCaffery’s actions related to a traffic citation received by his wife, who is a lawyer, and referral fees she obtained while working for him as an administrative assistant. It also noted he “may have attempted to exert influence over a judicial assignment” in Philadelphia.
The Judicial Conduct Board was given a month to determine whether there is probable cause to file a misconduct charge against McCaffery, a Philadelphia Democrat elected to the seven-member bench in 2007.
McCaffery’s lawyer, Dion Rassias, said they were confident he will be cleared and will soon return to the bench.
The court’s action followed disclosures last week by Chief Justice Ronald Castille, a Republican, thatMcCaffery had sent or received 234 emails with sexually explicit content or pornography from late 2008 to May 2012. McCaffery apologized, calling it a lapse in judgment, but blasted Castille for “a vindictive pattern of attacks” against him.
A third justice, Michael Eakin, also a Republican, on Friday went public with a claim McCaffery had threatened to leak “inappropriate” emails Eakin had received if he didn’t side with McCaffery against Castille.
McCaffery denied threatening Eakin, who reported the matter to the Judicial Conduct Board. Neither Eakin nor McCaffery participated in the court’s decision.
Castille was among the four justices voting to suspend McCaffery with pay, along with Max Baer, Corry Stevens and Thomas Saylor. Justice Debra Todd dissented, saying she would have referred the matter, including the question of suspension, to the Judicial Conduct Board.
An internal review of how state prosecutors handled a child molestation case involving former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky turned up the email exchanges of pornographic images and videos. Four former employees of the prosecutors’ office have left their government jobs as a result.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who promised the Sandusky review during her 2012 campaign, has said current employees of the attorney general’s office also sent or received the emails and could face discipline.
Castille, responding to news reports that judges were involved, demanded any information Kane had concerning the participation of any justice, judge or district judge. Kane, a Democrat, turned over the emails linked to McCaffery, and Castille disclosed the results last Wednesday, saying no other justices were involved.
Castille said McCaffery sent most of the emails to an agent in the attorney general’s office, who then forwarded them to others.
McCaffery said “coarse language and crude jokes” were simply a part of his life as a Philadelphia policeman and a Marine.