PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — After being reassigned for reportedly making racially-charged remarks in a closed-door conference, Judge Mark Tranquilli is now assigned to administrative duties only.
President Judge Kim Berkley Clark says Tranquilli “shall not preside over any cases.”
BREAKING: Embattled Judge Mark Tranquilli now assigned to only administrative duties in wake of alleged racist remarks. President Judge says Tranquilli "shall not preside over any cases." pic.twitter.com/obM0ZlyCut
— Andy Sheehan (@AndySheehankdka) February 6, 2020
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan learned on Tuesday that career prosecutor and current Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Mark Tranquilli was re-assigned after sources say he made the alleged remark two weeks ago.
A memorandum obtained by KDKA lays out what Tranquilli said behind closed doors.
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 closed-door conference came at the conclusion of a drug trial two weeks ago in which Dutkowski said Tranquilli “was not happy” the jury rendered a ‘not guilty’ verdict.
In chambers, Tranquilli questioned the assistant DA about why he had not moved to strike or block a black woman juror during jury selection weeks before.
“You weren’t out of strikes when you decided to put Aunt Jemima on the jury,” Tranquilli is alleged to say.
The document alleges Tranquilli said of the woman who had her hair in a headdress, “As soon as she sat down, she crossed her arms and looked like this.”
Dutokwski said the judge then crossed his arms and scowled, then continued: “You know darn well that when she goes home to her baby daddy, he’s probably slinging heroin too.”
The DA’s office gave the memorandum to President Judge Kim Berkley Clark, who issued an order temporarily re-assigning Tranquilli to summary appeals, where he will review magistrate cases ranging from traffic fines to truancy.
Clark forwarded the complaint to the state judicial conduct board for investigation.
According to the complaint, Dutkowski later spoke with Defense Attorney Joe Otte, who was also disturbed by the comments and told Dutkowski he was considering some action on his part and said he would be careful about bringing African-American defendants before Tranquilli.
When KDKA’s Andy Sheehan spoke with Otte last week, he declined to comment.
But the statements are being corroborated by the two attorneys in the room.
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.
Allegheny County Bar Association President Lori McMaster released a statement, saying in full:
“In remaining steadfast to the Allegheny County Bar Association’s mission and values, we have a duty to our members, our clients, and the African-American and broader communities at large, to continue to take action to eliminate implicit and explicit racial bias in our legal system. As such, the ACBA is demanding a complete investigation by the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania of Judge Tranquilli’s alleged communications to ensure that this matter receives prompt attention and a just resolution.”