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Pennsylvania judge is suspended after 'repeatedly calling a black female juror 'Aunt Jemima' while talking to lawyers' as bar association calls for state conduct investigation

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 2/8/2020 Associated Press and Matthew Wright For Dailymail.com

a man wearing a suit and tie: Judge Mark Tranquilli was suspended after being accused of referring to a black female juror as 'Aunt Jemima' repeatedly in comments he made in his chambers following the acquittal of a drug suspect on Jan. 24

Judge Mark Tranquilli was suspended after being accused of referring to a black female juror as 'Aunt Jemima' repeatedly in comments he made in his chambers following the acquittal of a drug suspect on Jan. 24
© Provided by Daily Mail

A Pennsylvania judge accused of making racist comments about a juror was barred from hearing any cases, according to a court order issued Thursday.

Judge Mark Tranquilli was suspended after being accused of referring to a black female juror as 'Aunt Jemima' repeatedly in comments he made in his chambers following the acquittal of a drug suspect on Jan. 24. 

Tranquilli was temporarily reassigned to summary appeals on Tuesday following an interview of the judge by court administration staff. He will be forbidden from hearing any case and will be restricted to 'administrative duties only, effective immediately.'

'Judge Tranquilli shall not preside over any cases during this assigment,' a court order states.

The judge allegedly made the comments in his chambers in the presence of the prosecutor, Ted Dutkowski, and the defense attorney, Joe Otte.

He is said to have been upset that a suspect was found not guilty, adding that Dutkowski should have done a better job at vetting jurors.

Tranquilli did not responded to requests for comment this week.

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Defense attorney Joe Otte complained about the judge's remarks © Provided by Daily Mail Defense attorney Joe Otte complained about the judge's remarks

Aunt Jemima has racist origins as it comes from a vaudeville era song 'Old Aunt Jemima.' The character was based off the mammie - a black woman who worked for white families, nursing their children. It is now commonly associated with syrup and pancake mix. 

Defense attorney Otte filed a complaint on January 25, following the chambers meeting where the judge expressed 'dissatisfaction with the jury'.

The complaint alleged that Tranquilli berated Dutkowski for making a 'terrible decision by allowing "Aunt Jemima" on the jury'.

He allegedly went on to say that 'her baby daddy probably sells heroin and that her presumed bias in favor of heroin dealers had caused or contributed to the not guilty verdict', ABC News reported.

Lori McMaster, president of the Allegheny County Bar Association, released a statement saying that an investigation would be launched into Tranquilli's comments. 

'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,' she said. 

'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.' 

On Wednesday, the Black Political Empowerment Project released a statement calling Dutkowski 'courageous' for coming forward and writing a complaint about Judge Tranquilli.

'With his racist views on record he need not be in position to judge anyone or anything,' the group added. 'We strongly oppose Judge Tranquilli to be able to review or rule on magistrate cases which we understand would range from traffic fines to truancy, for which he has recently been re-assigned to do.' 

'We already have too many African Americans and Black youths being negatively affected by bad decisions of the "justice" system.

They also questioned if Tranquilli had a longer history with racist tendencies.

'We understand too that Judge Tranquilli had earned a reputation for being 'tough on crime and defendants,'" they said.

'We can't help but wonder if his "toughness" was in actuality a series of racially based rulings, which may have led to some African Americans being sentenced inappropriately and unfairly, and possibly negatively affecting their lives, maybe in some cases for a number of years!'

 The complex origins of Aunt Jemima and the black women who played her

Many women have been tapped as Aunt Jemima over the years, with the first being Nancy Green in 1890, according to the pancake company's website

But Aunt Jemima traces its origins even earlier, starting with the 1875 vaudeville/minstrel song 'Old Aunt Jemima'. The character was based off the racist stereotype of the mammie and was sometimes performed by a white man in blackface. A mammie (or mammy) was a black woman who cared for a white family and took care of their children. 

Green was born a slave in Kentucky in the 1830s but would become known for her cooking. Green's Aunt Jemima was so popular, she even prompted the brand to change its name.

After Green, multiple women were credited with putting Aunt Jemima on the map across the country. 

Anna Robinson and Anna Short Harrington are just two of the women most known for taking on the 'iconic' role. 

Quaker Oats filed its first registration of the Aunt Jemima trademark in 1937. 

In 2015, a judge dismissed a case from two people claiming to be related to Harrington, who demanded that they be paid billions that they claimed the women were owed, according to the Wrap.

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