PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — An Allegheny County Common Pleas judge has been reassigned after reportedly making racially-charged remarks in a closed-door conference.
KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan has learned that career prosecutor and current Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Mark Tranquilli has been re-assigned after sources say he made the alleged remark two weeks ago. Now, his future is up in the air.
— Andy Sheehan (@AndySheehankdka) February 4, 2020
Prior to becoming a judge, Tranquilli supervised all homicide prosecutions.
Known as a tough prosecutor, Tranquilli earned a reputation for being tough on crime and defendants but now finds himself re-assigned after reportedly making racially-charged remarks in a closed-door conference.
President Judge Kim Berkley Clark issued an order temporarily re-assigning Tranquilli to summary appeals, where he will review magistrate cases ranging from traffic fines to truancy.
Judge Clark would not comment or confirm whether a complaint against Tranquilli has been filed. No one at the courthouse on Tuesday could remember a president judge taking such a dramatic step against another sitting judge.
But sources say the action comes in response to Tranquilli’s handling of a drug case two weeks ago.
In a closed-door meeting with a defense attorney and an assistant district attorney, the topic was jury selection. According to sources, Tranquilli made a racist characterization of a black female juror and allegedly alluded to the crack-addicted father of the woman’s child.
Sources say it was reported to Judge Clark that Tranquilli inappropriately referred to the juror under a racial stereotype and mused about the unwed father of her child.
There is no transcript of the conference, and no court reporter or stenographer was present.
The defense attorney, Joe Otte, told KDKA no comment; and late last week, the district attorney’s office also had no comment beyond saying it did not file a complaint against Tranquilli.
But in her order, Judge Clark alerts all members of the state Supreme Court of the re-assignment. This will likely be reviewed by that court’s Judicial Inquiry Review Board, but when contacted last week, the board said it also would not confirm or deny whether a complaint had been filed.
In his years as a supervisor of the district attorney’s homicide section, Tranquilli took on all of the big cases.
Among them, Richard Poplawski, who was convicted of killing three Pittsburgh police officers, and Ronald Robinson, who was convicted of shooting Penn Hills Officer Michael Crawshaw.
Tranquilli is a graduate of Baldwin High School and Allegheny College and received his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh. He was elected to the Common Pleas bench in 2013.
Tranquilli was not available for comment.