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Kistler in Hot Water Over Insensitive Email

KistlerSend something online, even privately, and it lives forever.

That is a lesson it seems Judge Thomas K. Kistler, one of Gov. Tom Wolf’s Supreme Court nominations, is learning the hard way.

The Philadelphia Inquirer revealed Friday that the judge may have distributed a racially insensitive email to others involved in the criminal justice system.

The December 2013 email was titled “Merry Christmas From The Johnsons” and featured a black couple during a jail visit. The man donned a typical orange prison uniform and sat behind a glass window. Cartoon pictures of Santa Claus and reindeer also appeared in the email.

“Touching and heartwarming. Merry Christmas to ALL! JK” read the subject line of the email, which was sent out to 22 recipients, some of them prosecutors.

Kistler told the Inquirer that he did not recall forwarding the email, but he also did not deny it. He said he did not think the email “conveys humor at all. I don’t find that humorous.”

He also noted that the message didn’t sound like him.

“I can’t imagine I would type ‘touching Christmas story,’” he told the Inquirer on Thursday night. He added that “JK” could represent a sign-off standing for “Judge Kistler.”

If he forwarded the email at all, he said it would not have been in jest of anyone. Rather, the email would have meant to portray that “Christmas goes on, even for the people we put in jail.”

Kistler, along with Duquesne University School of Law dean Ken Gormley, was nominated earlier this month by Wolf to fill retiring Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille and Justice Seamus McCaffery’s seats. The Inquirer reported that an official from Wolf’s administration said it has no comment about the email allegations.

Kistler, a Republican, currently serves as the President Judge of Centre County Court, a position he has held since 2012. The judge does not believe the email should affect his Supreme Court nomination.

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