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Judge Denies Lawyers Chance To Reach Deal In Eakin Porngate Case

Keith Srakocic

Proceedings took an unexpected turn at a hearing for Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice J. MichaelEakin on Thursday.

A deal reached between Eakin and the Judicial Conduct Board in the justice's pornographic email ethics case was never heard by the court.

Eakin’s lawyer, Bill Costopoulos, said an agreement was reached and filed Monday after private talks between his client, the board and a mediator. The full Court of Judicial Discipline prohibited public discussion by lawyers on either side.

Instead, Superior Court Judge Jack Panella told the state’s lawyers that they have until next Monday to submit additional documents regarding the case.

Eakin is accused of taking part in email exchanges that included pornographic images and derogatory remarks. He was initially suspended with pay.

Costopoulos said he doesn’t know whether the case will now go trial or if a deal is still possible. He said he came to Pittsburgh on short notice to spell out a deal in front of the court, and called it a “total shock” to be flatly denied that opportunity by Judge Panella.

“I didn’t come to Pittsburgh to be read [Rule] 502 and go home,” said Costopoulos, referring to the rule that allows lawyers on both sides to file additional paperwork up to a week after submitting a tentative deal to the court.

“There’s no mystery here. He sent out 18 emails. He’s accepted responsibility,” Costopoulos said. “We sent out the 18 emails. We shouldn’t have done it; we apologize; we’re never going to do it again. What’s there to try?”

The confusion surrounding the hearing seems to have stemmed from a misunderstanding of whether the Court of Judicial Discipline appointed a mediator to work out a deal, or if the court simply asked a mediator to get involved. Costopoulos said he’s ordered expedited transcripts to find out.

Judicial Conduct Board lawyer Francis Puskas said at the hearing that the state would like to take advantage of the time remaining to file additional documents.

The latter part of the proceedings devolved into something of a standoff between Judge Panella and Costopoulos. When the lawyer approached the podium to address the court, the judge talked over him to adjourn the hearing.

Minutes later, proceedings restarted and Costopoulos was called back to the podium; however, his attempts to discuss “why we’re here” were promptly rejected by Judge Panella.