Justice promises to continue Philadelphia justice reforms


The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s new liaison to the Philadelphia courts has pledged to keep pushing for reform of the criminal-justice system.

In a statement Thursday, high court Justice J. Michael Eakin praised Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, whom he replaced as overseer of the courts as the result of a vote of the Supreme Court bench.

Eakin said that Castille had produced “meaningful advances” in the courts as part of a drive to make sure more cases were decided on their merits.

“Thorny issues have been resolved, and recommendations have been made that will continue to be implemented.” Eakin said. “ Our court is unanimous in its commitment to see to completion every needed reform. “

Eakins staff said he was not available Thursday for an interview.

Castille stuck a gracious tone in the same news release.

“I have served as liaison justice to Philadelphia’s courts since 2007 and am proud of the accomplishments achieved there,” he said, “but every prudent organization plans for continuity in its management.”

Eakin is a Republican, like Castille. Before becoming an appellate judges in 1995, Eakin served as the district attorney in Cumberland County, outside Harrisburg.

The vote to oust Castille as liaison came after his fellow justices became upset after a report was made public in November alleging widespread ticket-fixing in Philadelphia’s

Traffic Court. The report, prepared by a consultant who was once a top aide to Castille when Castille was Philadelphia district attorney, was made public only two days it was shared with the justices of the court.

Among other allegations, the report strongly suggested that Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery had had a ticket fixed. McCaffery has denied that.

Though McCaffery and Castille are said to be now at odds, they worked closely to overhaul the Philadelphia criminal courts in recent years, spearheading numerous changes in procedures there. The justices took action after an Inquirer investigative series spotlighted the high dismissal and low convictions rate in the courts, as well as its entrenched problem of witness intimidation.