The Lead

Western Pa. judge who used racial slurs, inappropriate comments charged with violating judicial code of conduct

By: - August 12, 2020 5:05 pm

An Allegheny County judge is facing formal charges on six counts of judicial misconduct, according to a statement released Wednesday from the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania.

In the complaint, the board alleges that Fifth District Judge Mark V. Tranquilli undermined “both public confidence in the judiciary and its reputation” and called for Tranquilli’s interim suspension during the case.

The allegations against Tranquilli run from 2015 to early 2020. 

According to the documents, Tranquilli used racial slurs and made inappropriate comments about his job, those appearing before him and jurors, in the courtroom, and to others. 

The complaint alleges that Tranquilli “performed his judicial duties with bias or prejudice,” which the board says is a violation of Canon 2 Rule 2.3(A) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.  

The board says that he exhibited bias and prejudice at a Jan. 24, 2020 post sentencing meeting after trial in Commonwealth v. Rice, “when he referred to Juror #4 by the racist epithet ‘Aunt Jemima;’ when he referred to Juror #11 as a ‘knucklehead;’ and when he said that Juror #4 had a “baby daddy” at home ‘slinging heroin.’”

The 28-page release alleges that Tranquilli spoke in a dialect known as “Ebonics” on several instances. 

In February, the Pittsburgh NAACP called for Tranquilli’s removal following reports of “racist” remarks made by the judge, Pittsburgh City Paper reported then.

In a 2015 custody concillation detailed in the complaint, Tranquilli allegedly said that “he was merely passing time in the family division until his eventual reassignment to the criminal division.”

During the same proceeding, the complaint claims that Tranquilli suggested that he would “split the baby in half like Solomon and sleep like a baby that night.”

A former prosecutor, Tranquilli has served as a judge in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas since 2014.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.