Pennsylvania Supreme Court Candidate Withdraws Nomination After Racist Email Surfaces

A nominee for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has withdrawn his name from consideration after a racist email he sent in 2013 surfaced last week.

County Judge Thomas Kistler (R) said Monday that he was taking himself out of the running because "several circumstances have developed here, at home, in Centre County, which have dramatically altered the legal system, and require my full attention."

"The current vacancy in the Court Administration position, in addition to several other urgent matters in our court, make this an inopportune time for me to reduce my commitment to the citizens of Centre County," he added. "My primary concern has to remain the full and proper functioning of the Centre County court."

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) nominated Kistler to fill a vacancy in the state Supreme Court two weeks ago. "Today, Judge Thomas Kistler voluntarily withdrew his nomination to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and I accepted," Wolf said in a statement.

Last week, the Centre Daily Times reported that on Dec. 16, 2013, an email from the account of Centre County President Judge Thomas King Kistler went out to 22 people with the subject line, "Touching and heart-warming. Merry Christmas to ALL!" and was signed "JK."

It was a holiday card with an image of a black woman visiting a black man in jail, with the caption, “Merry Christmas from the Johnsons.” Raging Chicken Press posted the image, which has been circulating online since at least 2011:

Kistler did not reference the email at all in his letter withdrawing himself from consideration.

Last week, he confirmed to the Centre Daily Times that he had forwarded the image in the email, but insisted he was not being racist.

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

“I am proud of the reputation that this whole court has for complete fairness to everyone who comes to this building,” he added. “There is not one person in this building who has a racial tone to them. The last thing I would do would be to express some racial bias and send it to 20 friends.”



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