Kevin Dougherty and the Email Scandal — Will There Be Political Fallout?

Johnny Doc's brother was one of the bajillion officials who received offensive emails.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty at the National Constitution Center. | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty at the National Constitution Center. | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

At this point, who in Pennsylvania doesn’t have the stench of the email scandal on them?

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday that Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty — whose brother is powerful labor leader John Dougherty — was one of the many, many officials who received offensive emails.

“Dougherty, who took office this month, received three such emails when he was the top judge in Philadelphia Family Court,” the Inky wrote. One of the emails criticized undocumented immigrants, saying they receive “welfare, food stamps … free education, free health care, a lobbyist in Washington,” and “billions of dollars worth of public documents.”

There are lots of important questions to ask about these specific emails as well as the whole steaming, discouraging, out-of-control mess that is the Harrisburg email scandal. But, since I’m writing for a political blog, I’m only going to focus on one of them right now: Will there be political fallout for Dougherty?

I put that question to a handful of political insiders, and they all said they doubted it, largely because there is currently no evidence that Dougherty did anything more than receive emails. For all we know, Dougherty didn’t even open the messages. It’s also worth noting that, per the Inquirer’s report, none of the three emails he received were pornographic.

I agree that, at this moment, it’s hard to imagine any local elected officials rebuking Dougherty over the emails. Then again, it would have been difficult to predict a few months ago that all of the women on City Council would unite to call on District Attorney Seth Williams to fire his three employees who were ensnared in the scandal — and it would have been even harder to foresee state Sen. Anthony Williams doing the same thing. Not for any reason other than the fact that the D.A. and state senator were once such close allies.

Speaking of Seth Williams, it will be interesting to see whether he says anything about the emails sent to Kevin Dougherty, either publicly or privately. Williams’ defenders have stressed in the past that two of his prosecutors caught up in the email scandal — Marc Costanzo and Pat Blessington — “only” received offensive messages. (The third and most well-known employee, Frank Fina, sent emails as well.)

Dougherty was not available to provide comment to the Inquirer. He’ll have questions to answer in the days ahead. For instance, did he open any of the emails? Did he ask former Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, who sent the emails, to stop?

Once we know the answers to those questions, we’ll have a better sense of what, if any, political reverberations may come.