Pa. Supreme Court Nominee Withdraws

Judge Thomas King Kistler sent racially tinged email.

UPDATE: In a statement, Gov. Tom Wolf has announced that he has accepted Judge Thomas King Kistler’s nomination withdrawal:

“Today, Judge Thomas Kistler voluntarily withdrew his nomination to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and I accepted.

“I will make no further nominations, and Senate Leadership has said they will not hold hearings for either of the existing vacancies on the Supreme Court.”

ORIGINAL: A nominee for Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court is out of the running:

The Centre Daily Times described the controversial email:

In an email obtained by the Centre Daily Times, a holiday greeting card, framed with Santa and a reindeer, shows a jail visit, with a black couple smiling for the camera, the orange-jumpsuited man separated from the woman by a pane of glass as they hold the prison phones to talk, with the caption “Merry Christmas from the Johnsons.”

The email was sent Dec. 16, 2013, at 9:55 a.m. It purports to be from the account of Centre County President Judge Thomas King Kistler, with the message “Touching and heart-warming. Merry Christmas to ALL!” and is signed “JK.”

Kistler confirmed Friday that he had received and then forwarded the email but says his meaning was misconstrued.

“There was absolutely no ill intent,” he said. “It was a comment about how lightly people take being incarcerated.”

Gov. Tom Wolf’s other Supreme Court nominee is also facing scrutiny, the Inquirer reports. Ken Gormley, a dean at the Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh, has been the subject of a harassment complaint at the university.

In the last week, copies of an internal university report about a complaint filed in 2006 against Gormley and another law professor were anonymously distributed to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who first vote on Supreme Court nominations.

The internal Duquesne University report concluded that Gormley should not supervise women because he had shared “an unsubstantiated rumor” about a female professor’s personal life, according to a copy obtained by The Inquirer. The university later said the report was flawed and defended Gormley.

No word on the status of Gormley’s nomination.