Monday, February 8, 2016

Supreme Court looks to mediate Porngate scandal involving justice

A Pennsylvania Supreme Court judicial tribunal has quietly brought in prominent Philadelphia lawyer Richard A. Sprague to mediate a deal in the Porngate scandal that could forestall a public trial for Justice J. Michael Eakin, reported The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Bruce Ledewitz, a law professor at Duquesne University and expert on the state Supreme Court, said he saw a role for mediators in labor disputes or divorces - but not in cases where judges stand accused of wrongdoing.

He compared the tribunal's action to a judge in a criminal case asking someone to help broker a deal.

"Imagine if a guy is on trial for murder and you bring in a mediator," Ledewitz said.

Geoffrey Hazard, a legal-ethics expert and emeritus law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said the judicial tribunal seemed a little lost.

"They must be in deep doo-doo," he said of the panel. "They're in complete confusion."

Bruce Antkowiak, a professor of law at St. Vincent's College in Western Pennsylvania, praised Sprague's legal acumen, but said, "This pretty much is unprecedented."

He said lawyers for both sides of the Eakin case had apparently recognized that a "full hearing would be damaging to all parties."

Lynn A. Marks, executive director of the reform group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, said she viewed the hiring of Sprague as a "bad idea." "The public is entitled to hear the facts and the arguments discused openly," Marks said. ". . .Public confidence in the integrity of the courts will not be strengthened by a priate deal."

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