Pennsylvania judge suspended without pay, faces trial on ethics charges

A white judge in Pittsburgh accused of violating standards for judges by referring to a Black juror as “Aunt Jemima” and making other demeaning comments has been suspended without pay.

The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline imposed the suspension Wednesday on Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Mark Tranquilli and said his trial would start Oct. 5. The directives came two weeks after he was charged with judicial misconduct.

Tranquilli, a former prosecutor who has been on the bench since 2014, is accused of making demeaning comments to and about litigants and defendants in violation of state constitutional standards and state rules that govern judges’ behavior.

After the verdict in a January 2020 drug case, the complaint states, Tranquilli referred to a Black juror who wore her hair in a kerchief as “Aunt Jemima” during in-chambers discussions with lawyers. He is also charged with speculating that the juror’s “baby daddy” was a heroin dealer.

Tranquilli and his lawyer have declined comment on the allegations. He was reassigned to summary appeals and barred from hearing cases in February, after the “Aunt Jemima” allegation came to light.


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