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Politics & Government

McCaffery Apologizes For Emails, Swipes At Castille

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery is punching back after being named by the court’s chief justice for swapping sexually explicit emails with “longtime friends” working in state government.

McCaffery was named Wednesday by Chief Justice Ron Castille, who said a review of emails provided by the Office of Attorney General (OAG) found that McCaffery had exchanged hundreds of sexual or pornographic images with an erstwhile employee of the OAG. Castille hinted the high court might take action against McCaffery for the emails.

In a statement Thursday, McCaffery acknowledged he sent the emails and accused the court’s chief justice of trying to take him down.

“I sincerely apologize for my lapse in judgment. I erred and if I offended anyone, I am truly sorry,” McCaffery said.

He called Castille’s announcement “vindictive” and said the state’s top judge is “fixated on taking down a fellow justice.”

Castille and McCaffery have clashed publicly for the past couple years.

But Bruce Ledewitz, professor at Duquesne University School of Law, said McCaffery has a point.

The attorney general and Supreme Court chief justice could have allowed the state Ethics Commission and the Judicial Conduct Board handle questions of ethics violations. Instead, incomplete revelations and warring press statements are creating what Ledewitz called a “strange, wild media smear.”

“I think it’s a witchhunt,” said Ledewitz. “Due process has been violated at every point. The attorney general acted shamefully in the selective release. If this was going to be reported, it should have been reported by her to the disciplinary authorities. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court should have had nothing to do with it.”

The Judicial Conduct Board, which considers referring cases to the Court of Judicial Discipline (CJD), is investigating an activist’s complaint against McCaffery for participating in the raunchy e-mails. But the Supreme Court could trump any such inquiry with its own action against McCaffery.

The high court ruled earlier this month that its justices, and not the independent CJD, have ultimate authority over judges.

The ruling settled a dispute going back to the 1993 amendment to the state Constitution establishing the CJD.

At the time, McCaffery agreed with the decision, although he wrote that high court justices should only interfere in “truly extraordinary circumstances.”