HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin is stepping down amid an ethics inquiry over explicit and offensive emails he and others exchanged with prosecutors, lawyers and judges.
Eakin, a Mechanicsburg native and former Cumberland County district attorney, is accused of violating conduct rules for judges. His ethics trial was scheduled for later this month in Philadelphia.
The 67-year-old Republican has been on the state Supreme Court since 2002. He was suspended with pay in December.
A complaint filed last year in the Court of Judicial Discipline said Eakin acted in a manner that detracted from the dignity of his office, and he engaged in conduct “so extreme that it brought the judicial office into disrepute.”
The emails Eakin exchanged from his private Yahoo email account contained photographs of nude and semi-nude women and sexually suggestive themes. Others included jokes offensive to women and people of certain races, religions, and sexual preferences, according to the complaint.
The charges could have resulted in his removal from office.
He apologized in October, saying the emails do not reflect his character or beliefs.
Eakin is the second Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice to step down over the email scandal within 18 months. Justice Seamus McCaffery resigned after his suspension in October 2014.
The emails were uncovered during Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s internal review of the handling of the Jerry Sandusky case. Kane’s office said the emails were on office computer servers because some staff members had sent or received them.
The Judicial Conduct Board investigated and cleared Eakin in 2014, but it began a second investigation last year after Kane, following her arraignment on perjury charges, began releasing hundreds of emails to the media and ethics agencies.
Kane, a Democrat, has said a “good old boys club” is conspiring to get her and is the source of her legal troubles.