Resignation of judge who called juror 'Aunt Jemima' is 'binding and irrevocable,' judicial court says

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The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline has said a judge who referred to a juror as “Aunt Jemima” can’t change his mind about resigning.

Former Judge Mark Tranquilli resigned Tuesday and agreed that he won’t serve as a judge in the future. That pledge is “binding and irrevocable,” the discipline court said in a Nov. 19 order.

Law360 and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have coverage.

Tranquilli will also have to give up pay that was paused when he was suspended Aug. 26.

The ethics charges had alleged that Tranquilli:

• Criticized a prosecutor in chambers over selection of jurors who acquitted a defendant on a drug dealing charge. Referring to a Black juror who wore a kerchief, Tranquilli allegedly asked the prosecutor why he put “Aunt Jemima” on the jury. Tranquilli said the juror’s demeanor showed a negative attitude toward the prosecution case. He allegedly told the prosecutor, he “knew darn well” that when the juror “goes home to her baby daddy, he’s probably slinging heroin, too.”

• Discussed the issue of communication between the parties in a custody case, using an accent and dialect he described as Ebonics. “When I say communication, I don’t mean ‘and den da bitch done dis, and den da bitch done dat,’ ” he allegedly said.

• During a criminal sentencing hearing, allegedly said, “Are you familiar with the phrase, if you lay down with dogs, you wake up with fleas? … So now you have laid down twice with dogs, but you have woken up with two lovely children, probably two lovely children I’m betting you were probably not planning on. And for the cost of three shiny quarters in any bathroom in any rest stop in Pennsylvania, you probably could have gone a different direction.”

• In another sentencing hearing, allegedly told the defendant, “So if you don’t show up in 30 days, you have violated my probation, and I’m going to cast you down against the Sodomites, all right, in state prison.”

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