Senators. Anthony Hardy Williams (D-Philadelphia) and Judy Schwank (D-Berks) introduced Senate Bill 1083 (not yet online) a proposal for a constitutional amendment that would strip the Pennsylvania Supreme Court of its power to appoint members of two judicial oversight boards.
The proposal follows the revelation that the now formally charged Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin attempted to appoint someone he favored to the Court of Judicial Discipline to review accusations that he transmitted racist, misogynistic and homophobic emails using Commonwealth-owned equipment.
The Judicial Conduct Board is the other panel that reviews the behavior of Pennsylvania’s judges.
The JCB Tuesday recommended four counts against Eakin for his role in what Sen. Williams has called “Hategate.”
“The Judicial Conduct Board is heavily influenced by those they are supposed to be investigating,” Sen. Williams said.
Under the proposal for a constitutional amendment to strip the Supreme Court’s authority to appoint members of the JCB and the Court of Judicial Discipline, the lawmakers said Senate Bill 1083, if voters approved, would end the court's ability to end-run a constitutional process established in 1993.
The bill would also--
— The Supreme Court's authority to appoint members of the Judicial Conduct Board and the Court of Judicial Discipline would be transferred to the governor, who would get two additional appointments to the conduct board; and to the legislature, which would get four appointments to the conduct board and four to the disciplinary court.
— The number of seats held by judges on the conduct board and disciplinary court would be reduced to four from seven.
— The board and court would be funded through a distinct line-item within the judicial budget. And,
— Would require the immediate interim suspension of a judge upon the formal filing of disciplinary (such as were just announced against Justice Eakin) or felony charges.
"What we've seen recently is that we really need to fix the system to restore public confidence in the courts,” Sen. Schwank said in a statement. “If the public can't have confidence in them, the system simply cannot work right."
Representatives Joanna McClinton (D-Delaware) and Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia) joined Sen. Williams at Wednesday’s announcement.
On the possibility for the impeachment of Justice Eakin, Sen. Williams said he will talk to members of the House of Representatives.
“While there’s not been any conclusion and, certainly, Justice Eakin deserves his day in court, the findings themselves – and the activities surrounding this – are very, very important. For those reasons, we expect that members of the House will be interested in the possibility of pursuing those articles of impeachment,” the Senator said.
Sen. Williams said it’s also problematic that Justice Eakin, according to the Judicial Conduct Board, used his state-issued computer to transmit his hateful emails.“The JCB’s findings that Justice Eakin used Commonwealth-owned equipment to bring disrepute to his office, one of the highest judicial offices in PA, clearly meet the criteria for suspension or removal based on those precedents,” he said.