Pennsylvania’s legal community has an email problem. First it was the pornographic emails being swapped between the Attorney General’s Office and other state offices. Then it turned out some of the more offensive files came from none other than a sitting Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice, one Seamus McCaffery, since retired.
So you would think that if you were called into new Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s (D) Capitol digs to discuss a nomination to fill McCaffery’s judicial robes, you would have thought back over any emails you may have received, sent or forwarded that could maybe, possibly, probably be considered offensive in any way before accepting the nomination.
That’s apparently not the strategy that Thomas K. Kistler (R), the sitting president judge of the Centre County Common Pleas Court and a 1982 graduate of the Penn State Dickinson School of Law, decided on. Various news outlets, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, are reporting that Judge Kistler forwarded what can only be described as a racially insensitive email Christmas card to 22 other individuals, all in law enforcement.
What kind of card, you ask? The holiday greeting apparently shows a black man in an orange jumpsuit sitting behind a glass partition speaking via phone to a black woman on the other side of the glass. The 2013 e-card says, ‘Merry Christmas from the Johnsons.” At the top of the email is a comment, “Touching and heart-warming. Merry Christmas to ALL! — JK”
When reached by Philadelphia Inquirer reporters for comment, Judge Kistler said he didn’t recall forwarding the card, but did offer his opinion that perhaps the message wasn’t meant to mock anyone, but to convey the idea that “Christmas goes on, even for the people we put in jail.”
No word yet on whether Judge Kistler will withdraw his nomination.
This bitter lawyer has a hankering for a return to the good old days of Pennsylvania Supreme Court nominations. Back in 1996, Dickinson School of Law Dean John A. Maher was also nominated for an opening on the court. His chances for confirmation plummeted after he publicly stated that he believed the death penalty should be reserved for politicians who sell their office. He told gathered reporters. “I consider that, to the degree that the death penalty is ethically permissible, we in America tend to award it for the wrong crimes. I think the highest crime is the sale of office.”
So there we have it – from nominees who believe political corruption deserving of the death penalty to justices who pass around pornographic emails and possibly racially offensive Christmas cards – that’s progress.
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