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January 10, 2016

Noting criminal justice fallout when state judges and prosecutors behave badly

I have only paid a little attention to the wide-ranging scandal involving judges and prosecutors in Pennsylvania known as "Porngate," but this local article notes how this scnadal is having some criminal justice ramifications.  The piece is headlined "Fallout from Porngate leads to cases being appealed, claiming racial, gender, and ethnic bias," and here are excerpts:

Since late last year, lawyers across the state have quietly seized upon the pornographic, sexist, and racially offensive emails exchanged by a small circle of judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials to ask courts to reevaluate decisions ranging from criminal convictions to civil judgments and even death sentences.

They argue that the insensitive correspondence -- many of which contain jokes about rape; photos mocking African Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities; and insulting comments about gays, the obese, and the disabled - expose hidden biases and an inappropriate chumminess between the judges and prosecutors who already wield great power over the state's system of justice.

"It is important that any case be judged by someone who is fair, impartial, and sensitive to the issues of abuse, racial discrimination, and to prolonged exposure to trauma," said Robert Dunham, of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center.  "Given the insensitivity reflected in those emails, it's not surprising that lawyers would be raising challenges."...

Reviews by the Supreme Court, the Attorney General's Office, and the state Judicial Conduct Board have found no emails in which individual cases were discussed.  Still, defense lawyers have challenged cases across the state:

In Philadelphia, lawyers for Griffin Campbell, the demolition contractor sentenced Friday to 15 to 30 years in prison for his role in the deadly 2013 Center City building collapse, have pointed to crude racial jokes contained in many of the emails of the prosecutor who oversaw the grand jury investigation.  They argued the messages raise questions over whether his was a "racially selective prosecution."

In Harrisburg, three African American women from Philadelphia have asked the Supreme Court to reconsider a 1997 decision upholding their convictions on contempt of court, saying Eakin's emails now "raise substantial questions about the propriety of his participation in cases such as this one."

And in Cumberland County, death-row inmate Antyane Robinson is seeking a Supreme Court rehearing, saying the email traffic between Eakin, who wrote an opinion denying his earlier appeal, and the trial prosecutor in his case suggests an inappropriately friendly relationship and a potential bias toward the government case that earned Robinson a death sentence for the 1997 murder of a romantic rival.  The emails, Robinson's Luzerne County lawyer Enid Harris wrote in a filing last month, "indicate an utter lack of judicial sensibility and impartiality necessary for Eakin to have provided a fair review."

Whether any of those arguments will succeed remains to be seen.  Prosecutors in all three cases have dismissed the idea that any prejudice the emails may expose should warrant tossing out judgments settled years ago.  The larger concern, legal experts say, is not that prosecutors or judges allowed their legal reasoning to be overtly guided by the sophomoric attitudes on display in their email in-boxes.

Rather, the more insidious threat, said Nicholas Cafardi, a Duquesne University law professor, is the doubt their correspondence may have planted in the minds of ordinary citizens with business before the court. Thirteen years ago, Cafardi led a panel of experts appointed by the state Supreme Court in an assessment of racial and gender bias in the state's court system and produced a stunning report cataloging dozens of examples of prejudice - both subtle and overt.

More than a decade since that exhaustive review, Porngate's revelations have sat uncomfortably with Cafardi. "The only credibility our judicial system has is its impartiality," he said. "Judges who make sexist or racist remarks or even enjoy being told racist or sexist jokes convey the impression that they're not impartial. It's not enough to say that they didn't mean ill. The damage to the system has already been done."

January 10, 2016 at 03:13 PM | Permalink


Is there a duty to ignore or deny the truth among judges and prosecutors? Most -isms are mostly true most of the time. So, racism, sexism, ablism are mostly true most of the time. Unless there was proven bias affecting the outcome of a tribunal, this is more silly witch hunt of the productive male by the vile feminist lawyer and its male running dogs.

As a side benefit, it generates pointless legal disputes to generate pointless legal fees.

Now, the Supremacy has been advocating total e-discovery of the computers of the prosecutors and of the judges, for many years, right here in the Comments section. While a rare lawyer will support this demand for discovery done on the prosecutor, there was literally no lawyer in the nation willing to demand e-discovery on a judge. They replied, they saw the value, but only a pro se litigant would be doing it.

Now we have this tawdry, cheap, partisan political witch hunt, serving as a natural experiment. And the results have been a stunning validation of the innovative trial tactic proposed by the Supremacy.

The Supremacy is not a particularly bright person. It is about only two years ahead of this lawyer dumbass group. Each likely has 20 IQ points superiority on the Supremacy. In the case of Prof. Berman, that advantage is likely 50 IQ points. So why is the Supremacy so prescient, and so far ahead of the lawyer dumbass, seeing the self evident that everyone else in the public can see,evenspecial ed, life Skills mentally retarded students? The Supremacy and the mentally retarded Life Skills students had their high school educations left intact, not destroyed in the criminal cult indoctrination that is called 1L.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 10, 2016 4:35:24 PM

Is there a place where the materials can be viewed?

I ask for educational purposes since I like to keep abreast of the details of public events and support open access generally.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 10, 2016 4:36:32 PM

"The only credibility our judicial system has is its impartiality," he said. "Judges who make sexist or racist remarks or even enjoy being told racist or sexist jokes convey the impression that they're not impartial."

This person has a mental illness. As a psychologist one of my favorite sayings is "suspicion tends to create what it suspects". It is a warning designed to help the psychologist ward off the numbing effects of paranoia. As anyone who has dealt with clinical paranoia will tell you what is most astonishing about paranoia is the seemingly inane details that the paranoid uses to justify his paranoia. The paranoid concoct the most elaborate schemes with the most lurid details to explain their victimization. For the paranoid, there is no link on the chain of causation that is too distal. It is halos built upon penumbras.

Where does this stop? First, a person cannot tell a racist joke, now he cannot enjoy a racist joke, next he will not be able to hear a racist joke, be in the same room as a racist joke, or even know someone who once told a racist joke. There has been much todo in the press recently about China's totalitarian "citizen score" but why should it surprise anyone? We are in effect creating a citizen score for judges through our social paranoia. The circus that is happening in PA is fundamentally socially destructive. Whether that's the intent, or a side-effect, I'll leave other wits to decide.

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 10, 2016 5:31:42 PM

Why won't the defense bar ever attack the prosecutor or the piece of subhuman filth on the bench? The defense owes its job not to the client, but to those two adverse parties. The defense is working for the other side. It is allowing an appalling rate of false conviction. It can be replaced by email or the regular mail. Why bother with a defense lawyer, when you could just reply to the plea offer by mail?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 11, 2016 7:25:12 AM

Worse are the straight arrow judges or prosecutors who do all that the best of the best do and refrain from doing what they do not do …
prostitute their respective oaths of office and perfect the art of an out of control tyrant •

Too often the reasonable solution is the blood of the tyrant •

Karma is usually the only lawful means of killing the tyrant , notwithstanding John of Salisbury’s idea for the limited use of tyrannicide ‼

Docilely and Kindly submitted,
Quoth the Queen of ♥s , “Off with their heads „ EVERMORE

Posted by: Docile Jim Brady „ the Nemo Me ☺ Impune Lacessit guy in Oregon ‼ | Jan 11, 2016 8:21:12 AM

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