Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission Releases 2015 Judicial Ratings

HARRISBURG (Jan. 28, 2015) – The Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission (PBA JEC) today released its ratings of potential judicial candidates seeking election to the state’s appellate courts in November. In the 2015 election, voters will be filling three seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, one seat on the Pennsylvania Superior Court and one seat on the Commonwealth Court.

Each candidate requesting an evaluation by the PBA JEC is eligible to receive a rating of "Highly Recommended," "Recommended" or "Not Recommended."

The PBA JEC’s ratings for the potential candidates are:

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania –

Highly Recommended
Judge Cheryl L. Allen, Allegheny County
Judge Christine L. Donohue, Allegheny County
Judge Anne E. Lazarus, Philadelphia County
Justice Correale F. Stevens, Luzerne County
Judge David N. Wecht, Allegheny County

Recommended
Judge John T. Bender, Allegheny County
Judge Kevin M. Dougherty, Philadelphia County
Judge John H. Foradora, Jefferson County
Judge Michael A. George, Adams County
Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer, Centre County
Judge Paul P. Panepinto, Philadelphia County
Judge Dwayne D. Woodruff, Allegheny County

Not Recommended
Rebecca L. Warren, Montour County

Superior Court of Pennsylvania –

Highly Recommended
Judge Robert J. Colville, Allegheny County

Recommended
Judge Alice B. Dubow, Philadelphia County
Judge Emil A. Giordano, Northampton County
Judge Paul P. Panepinto, Philadelphia County
Judge Douglas G. Reichley, Lehigh County
David E. Robbins, Delaware County

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania –

Recommended
R. Todd Eagen, Dauphin County
Judge Emil A. Giordano, Northampton County
Paul N. Lalley, Allegheny County
Judge Paul P. Panepinto, Philadelphia County
Scot R. Withers, Chester County
Michael H. Wojcik, Allegheny County

"With the large slate of candidates vying this year for the three seats open on the Supreme Court and one each on the Superior and Commonwealth courts, voters will be challenged to make informed choices of those candidates best suited to serve as fair, impartial and knowledgeable appellate court judges,” said Robert F. Morris, chair of the PBA JEC. “The PBA JEC seeks to give voters guidance by only recommending potential candidates who have the legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament needed to provide satisfactory or outstanding performance as judges on our appellate courts."

The PBA JEC based its ratings for each candidate on a two-part evaluation process. Investigative panels conducted the first phase of the process, which included personal interviews with the candidates and with individuals who have had professional or personal dealings with them. Upon completion of the investigative process, the panels submitted confidential reports to the Commission.

Upon receipt and review of the investigative panel’s report, the commission conducted the second phase of the evaluation process. The commission interviewed each candidate in Harrisburg, discussed his or her qualifications and reached consensus on each candidate's rating.

Serving with Morris in the leadership of the PBA JEC is Berks County lawyer Heidi B. Masano as vice chair and Erie County lawyer Steven E. (Tim) Riley Jr. as immediate past chair. Lawyer members include A. Harold Datz of Philadelphia County; Richard A. Estacio of Montgomery County; Nancy Lauffer Heilman of Allegheny County; Richard B. Henry of Wayne County; Stephanie F. Latimore of Dauphin County; Sharon R. Lopez of Lancaster County; C. Edward S. Mitchell of Lycoming County; Kimberly Moses of Allegheny County; Howard A. Rothenberg of Lackawanna County; and Lorrie E. Whitfield of Monroe County. Non-lawyer members are Keith Eckel of Lackawanna County; Denice Ferranti-Robinson of Fayette County; Edith Marino of Lycoming County; Ernest F. Salvino of Centre County; Susan Sherman of Philadelphia County; and Matthew Woessner of Dauphin County.

RATINGS' DEFINITIONS

Highly Recommended: The candidate possesses the highest combination of legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament and would be capable of outstanding performance as a judge or justice of the court for which he/she is a candidate.

Recommended: Based on legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament, the candidate would be able to perform satisfactorily as a judge or justice of the court for which he/she is a candidate.

Not Recommended: Based on legal ability, experience, integrity or temperament, or any combination thereof, at the present time, the candidate is inadequate to perform satisfactorily as a judge or justice of the court for which he/she is a candidate.

SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Judge Cheryl L. Allen
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Candidate currently serves on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, having been elected in November 2007. Prior to her tenure on the Superior Court, she served as a judge on the Common Pleas Court of Allegheny County for 17 years. The Candidate is an intelligent and independent jurist who prepares clearly-written, well-reasoned and fair opinions. The Candidate sets the standard for administrative efficiency on the Superior Court. She is held in high esteem by her colleagues on the bench as well as by lawyers and litigants who appear before her. The Candidate has demonstrated her dedication to the improvement of the quality of justice by participating in various bar association committees and events. She also has an extensive history of service to the community. Because the Candidate possesses the highest combination of legal ability, experience, integrity, and temperament, the Commission highly recommends her candidacy for the Supreme Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge John T. Bender
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate has served on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania since January 2002. He has earned a reputation as a fair-minded and capable jurist. He regularly delivers concise, consistent and clear opinions. His opinions are well reasoned and easily readable regardless of the subject matter's complexity. He has an excellent judicial temperament and is known for being well prepared, polite and attentive during arguments in cases before him. He has demonstrated a thorough grasp of both substantive legal and procedural issues. He has actively served on the Appellate Court Rules Committee, while maintaining a commitment to his day-to-day administrative and substantive duties as a judge. He has been elected by his fellow judges to be an interim president judge of the Superior Court. The Commission recommends the Candidate for election to the Supreme Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Christine L. Donohue
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Candidate has been a judge on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania since January 2008. Prior to her tenure on the court, she was a practicing attorney with extensive civil trial and appellate court experience. She demonstrates a wealth of knowledge in a variety of areas, including civil, domestic relations, criminal and constitutional matters. The Candidate's reputation among her colleagues is one of intelligence, conscientiousness and objectivity, and she is known for possessing high ethical standards. Her opinions and legal writings are well-reasoned. She has demonstrated her commitment to legal and judicial ethics as a member of the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline. She also has extensive community involvement and has taught courses for both professional and lay audiences. Because of her broad experience as a practicing attorney, proven record of judicial leadership and ethics and dedication to the legal profession, the Commission is confident that the Candidate would serve with distinction as a Supreme Court justice and highly recommends her candidacy.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Kevin M. Dougherty
Rating: Recommended

Before being appointed to the trial bench, the Candidate worked as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia and in private practice as a criminal and civil litigator. He was appointed by the governor in 2001 to fill an unexpired term on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. He was then elected to a 10-year term in 2001 and retained in 2011. He has been appointed to serve as chair of the administrative governing board in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and administrative judge of the trial division. He had served previously as administrative judge of the family division and supervising judge of the juvenile branch. In these roles, he implemented innovative solutions to problems in the juvenile dependency and delinquency areas. He has served on statewide commissions studying juvenile justice issues and statewide committees recommending domestic relations and juvenile court procedural rules. He is a strong administrator. Considered fair, open-minded, courteous and a good listener, he also is a hard worker and a consensus builder. Based on his judicial and administrative experience and his work ethic, judicial temperament and integrity, the Commission recommends the Candidate to serve on the Supreme Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge John H. Foradora
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate is a sitting common pleas court judge in a one-judge judicial district. His private practice provided him with a broad array of experience in criminal defense, domestic matters, business law and administrative practice. The Candidate has in-depth understanding of substantive and procedural law. He has a reputation for good judicial temperament, as well as excellent character and integrity. One of the Candidate's strengths is his ability to administer his judicial office. Notable among his achievements is his ability to bring reform to his county court. The Commission recommends the Candidate for service as a Supreme Court justice.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Michael A. George
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate serves as the president judge on the Adams County Court of Common Pleas. He was elected to the court in 1999 and has presided over a variety of cases, including criminal, civil and family matters. Prior to his tenure on the court, the Candidate served as the Adams County District Attorney for five years. The Candidate is reported to possess a calm, professional and fair judicial demeanor and has a reputation as an excellent administrator. His legal opinions and rulings are regarded as well reasoned, and he has demonstrated his commitment to the legal profession by participating in various bar association programs. The Commission believes that the Candidate would perform satisfactorily as a justice on the Supreme Court and recommends his candidacy.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate has served as a judge on the Commonwealth Court for the past 13 years. She has a reputation for being intelligent, engaged, thorough, collegial, ethical and hard working. She possesses good judicial temperament and is known to be courteous, compassionate and impartial. She is described as having a well-defined sense of justice and works hard to improve the quality of justice through her contribution to continuing education for lawyers and judges. Her legal opinions are well written and reflect her ability to interpret and apply legal principles and provide clear direction for advocates and agencies. She is highly regarded by members of the bar. Her service on the Commonwealth Court demonstrates her ability to fulfill the responsibilities of an appellate court judge. The Commission recommends her as a candidate for a seat on the Supreme Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Anne E. Lazarus
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Candidate served with distinction on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas before ascending in 2010 to the Pennsylvania Superior Court bench, where she also has served with distinction. She currently serves on the Judicial Conduct Board and was appointed chair of the Ad Hoc Supreme Court Committee to draft a new Model Code of Judicial Conduct, which was adopted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in July 2014. Recently, she received the Sandra Day O'Connor Award, given by the Philadelphia Bar Association to a lawyer who has achieved prominence and the highest degree of professional excellence. She possesses exemplary knowledge of legal principles and procedures. She has demonstrated that she is a gifted and thoughtful legal scholar who writes clearly and concisely. She has an even and fair-minded temperament and is respectful of other judges and the lawyers and litigants involved in matters that come before her. She repeatedly is described as demonstrating the ethical and personal conduct reflective of the appropriate standard for the judiciary and is regarded by her colleagues as a person of the highest integrity. The Candidate has the breadth of experience and knowledge to serve with distinction on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and is highly recommended by the Commission.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Paul P. Panepinto
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate is an experienced jurist with more than two decades of service on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. During his tenure on the bench, the Candidate worked to develop specialty courts and managed complex litigation matters. The Candidate is knowledgeable about the law and procedure. The Candidate's reputation among litigants and counsel is generally positive. The Candidate engages in community service by teaching at local institutions of higher education. The Commission believes the Candidate can meet the intellectual demands of a Supreme Court justice and therefore recommends his candidacy.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Justice Correale F. Stevens
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Candidate has served as a Pennsylvania jurist for 24 years. Commencing in 1991 and continuing through 1998, the Candidate served on the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas. From 1998 through 2013, he sat on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, serving as its president judge in his final years on that court. Currently, the Candidate is a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice, having been appointed by the governor in 2013 and confirmed unanimously for that seat by the Senate of Pennsylvania. With this history of service to the Pennsylvania court system, the Candidate brings a unique and wide breadth of experience on the workings of the court system and interpretation and application of Pennsylvania law. The Candidate's opinions evidence thoughtful, scholarly research and demonstrate his keen intellect and his exemplary ability to analyze the law. The Candidate is respectful to all those who come before him and is respected and well regarded by those who work with him. His love of the law is apparent from his long service to the judicial system. He has the breadth of experience and knowledge required to serve with distinction on the Supreme Court and is highly recommended by the Commission.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Rebecca L. Warren
Rating: Not Recommended

For most of her career, the Candidate worked as a civil litigator. She handled a variety of matters, including contract disputes, trusts and estates, family law matters, real estate and transactions. In 2011, she was elected district attorney of Montour County and presently serves in that capacity. For most of her tenure, she has been the only prosecutor for Montour County and has been supported by a small staff. While she has handled a broad range of civil and criminal matters, the Commission is concerned about the depth and breadth of her appellate-level experience. The Commission also has concerns about whether the Candidate currently possesses the temperament, collegiality and demeanor required of an appellate court judge. For these reasons, the Commission at this time does not recommend the Candidate for a seat on the Supreme Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge David N. Wecht
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Candidate has consistently shown his affinity for the law since the beginning of his legal career as a hardworking and prolific lawyer, and, more recently, as a distinguished member of the judiciary for the last 12 years. While serving as a common pleas court judge in Allegheny County, he created the innovative “One Family, One Judge” program that sought and achieved consistency in matters before the family court division. The Candidate has presided over many cases in the civil division of the common pleas court as well. The Candidate ascended to the Pennsylvania Superior Court in 2011, where he further honed his skills as a well-respected and thoughtful jurist. His opinions during his tenure on both courts have been well reasoned, thorough and cogent, demonstrating a deep understanding of the often-complex legal issues involved and providing clear guidance on future matters to the courts, attorneys and litigants. His forward-thinking approach to the law, unquestioned legal ability, integrity and judicial temperament would serve him well, and the Commission highly recommends him for a seat on the Supreme Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Dwayne D. Woodruff
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate has been a judge on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas since 2005. Prior to his tenure on the bench, he was a founding partner at a Pittsburgh law firm and regional vice president/director of operations and counsel for a financial services company. He has practiced in the areas of insurance defense, product liability, personal injury and real estate tax law. The Candidate is regarded by his colleagues and the bar as a dedicated, hard-working judge who is committed to justice and fairness. His legal opinions are well reasoned, logical and designed to clearly explain the law and his legal conclusions. The Candidate's commitment to juvenile justice is well known throughout the commonwealth and is demonstrated by his active participation in a variety of bar associations and committees. He is active in numerous community and nonprofit organizations. Based on legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament, the Candidate could perform satisfactorily as a justice on the Supreme Court, and the Commission recommends his candidacy.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Judge Robert J. Colville
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Candidate has served as a trial court judge in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas since 2000. Initially assigned to the family division, he was transferred to the general civil trial court, where he has served for approximately 12 years. During his tenure as judge, the Candidate has presided over 32,000 matters and 500 jury and bench trials. The Candidate also served as supervising judge for toxic substance cases in Allegheny County and resolved over 4,000 asbestos matters. Before his tenure on the bench, the Candidate was a general litigator with a Pittsburgh law firm. He previously had served as a law clerk to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice. The Candidate demonstrates his commitment to the continued development of the legal profession through his active involvement in various bar association programs and as a college professor. His commitment to judicial ethics is exhibited by his membership on the Court of Judicial Discipline. The Candidate has been praised for his work ethic and judicial temperament. Because of his proven record of judicial excellence, administrative efficiency and dedication to the legal profession and judicial ethics, the Commission believes the Candidate would serve with distinction on the Superior Court and highly recommends his candidacy.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Alice B. Dubow
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate began a 10-year term on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in 2008. She has practiced law since 1984, serving as a law clerk, associate attorney in private practice, a lawyer in the Philadelphia city solicitor's office, deputy general counsel for Drexel University and in her own practice until her election to the bench. The Candidate possesses a broad array of experience in insurance defense work, commercial litigation, tax work for the city and in private practice and in the diverse matters she handled for Drexel. While on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, she has served extensively in the family court, and to a more limited degree, in the criminal and civil divisions. She is recognized as a team player, very professional, thorough and hard working. Her writing is well organized and scholarly. The Commission believes the Candidate's experience as a lawyer and as a judge render her competent to fulfill the responsibilities of a Superior Court judge and therefore recommends her candidacy.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Emil A. Giordano
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate is a common pleas court judge who is generally well regarded as a jurist of integrity and good temperament by attorneys and litigants that come before him. The Candidate's background and experience, both as a trial lawyer and as a sitting judge, indicate he has a clear understanding of the Rules of Procedure and the Rules of Evidence. His experience as an administrative judge demonstrates his ability to address the office, personnel and fiscal needs of running a court. The Candidate volunteers in his community and teaches at local educational institutions on legal topics. The Candidate is engaging, sincere, intelligent and affable. Because of the Candidate's experience with domestic law, criminal law and civil matters, the Commission recommends his candidacy for Superior Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Paul P. Panepinto
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate is an experienced jurist with more than two decades of service on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. During his tenure on the bench, the Candidate worked to develop specialty courts and managed complex litigation matters. The Candidate is knowledgeable about the law and procedure. The Candidate's reputation among litigants and counsel is generally positive. The Candidate engages in community service by teaching at local institutions of higher education. Because of the Candidate's extensive experience as a trial judge in family court, juvenile court and civil matters, the Commission recommends his candidacy for the Superior Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Douglas G. Reichley
Rating: Recommended

Since 2012, the Candidate has served on the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas. Previously, he was in private practice, joined the Lehigh County district attorney's office, then joined the Philadelphia County district attorney's office, and later returned to private practice in Lehigh County, while serving as conflicts counsel for the Lehigh County public defender's office. The Candidate was then elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, serving from 2003 through 2011. He enjoys an excellent reputation and has been actively engaged for many years in public service and community involvement. His writing is thorough and well reasoned. The Commission believes the Candidate's temperament and intellect render him capable of serving on the Superior Court and recommends his candidacy.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

David E. Robbins
Rating: Recommended

Throughout his career, the Candidate has been a judicial clerk while maintaining a solo practice. The Candidate has appeared as an advocate before the Superior Court. He has been an active member of various bar associations and their committees. He has limited trial experience, but he has had an opportunity to work closely with members of the trial bench in Delaware County. The Candidate has lectured on a variety of matters, including recent case law and regulations, civil cases and criminal matters. He possesses an excellent temperament and is devoted to the improvement of the quality of justice. The Commission believes that the Candidate would perform satisfactorily as a member of the Superior Court and recommends his candidacy.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

R. Todd Eagen
Rating: Recommended

Throughout his career as an attorney, the Candidate has been held in high regard by his peers, who commend his integrity, strong work ethic and civility. Following graduation from law school, the Candidate served as a law clerk to a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Since that time, the Candidate has been in private practice with various law firms, focusing on labor and employment law and representing public sector unions with an emphasis on law enforcement unions. The Candidate's writing skills are strong. His analytical ability is exemplary, and he has a wealth of experience before the Commonwealth Court. The Candidate has a strong record of pro bono service and has served the community both in church activities as well as in his local bar association. Based on his strong intellect, integrity and work ethic, the Commission recommends the Candidate for the Commonwealth Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Emil A. Giordano
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate has been a common pleas court judge since 2003 and is generally well regarded as a jurist of integrity and good temperament by attorneys and litigants that come before him. The Candidate's background and experience, both as a trial lawyer and as a sitting judge, indicate he has a clear understanding of the Rules of Procedure and the Rules of Evidence. His experience as an administrative judge demonstrates his ability to address the office, personnel and fiscal needs of running a court. Prior to his tenure on the bench, he practiced in the areas of municipal law and workers' compensation law, representing both claimants and defendants. The Candidate volunteers in his community and teaches at local educational institutions on legal topics. The Candidate is engaging, sincere, intelligent and affable. Because of the Candidate's experience with municipal law and workers' compensation, together with his experience on the bench, the Commission recommends his candidacy for service on the Commonwealth Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Paul N. Lalley
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate has practiced law since 1996, serving as a clerk to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice and thereafter in private practice. Recently, he has primarily represented public sector clients such as municipalities, school districts and public school entities in labor and employment matters. He practices before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Commonwealth Court, U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The Candidate demonstrates integrity and is known as a worthy and knowledgeable opponent. His writing skills are held in high regard, particularly his ability to clearly explain complex legal issues. The Commission believes the Candidate has the requisite legal ability and skills to serve on the Commonwealth Court and recommends his candidacy.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Paul P. Panepinto
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate is an experienced jurist with more than two decades of service on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. During his tenure on the bench, the Candidate worked to develop specialty courts and managed complex litigation matters. The Candidate is knowledgeable about the law and procedure. The Candidate's reputation among litigants and counsel is generally positive. The Candidate engages in community service by teaching at local institutions of higher education. Because of the Candidate's interest and experience in administrative matters, the Commission recommends his candidacy for the Commonwealth Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Scot R. Withers
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate is a partner at a Chester County law firm, working in the post-trial and appellate advocacy group and the litigation and municipal government departments. He holds the position of deputy counsel of the Pennsylvania Appellate Rules Committee and is known for being well-versed in the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure. His knowledge, interpretation and application of legal principles are excellent, and he is recognized as an avid and well-prepared advocate. He has a record of integrity and collegiality. He is described as patient, courteous, impartial, even tempered and of sound character. He is active in public service, pro bono representations and other volunteer work. The Candidate has the experience, knowledge and temperament to perform satisfactorily on the Commonwealth Court, and the Commission recommends his candidacy.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Michael H. Wojcik
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate has practiced law since 1989 in a variety of settings, including small, medium-sized and large law firms. This breadth of experience has allowed him to develop expertise in a wide range of areas, including tax, civil rights, personal injury and municipal law. During this time, he has served as solicitor for Allegheny County and more recently as solicitor for the Allegheny County Airport Authority. The Candidate is well respected by attorneys, judges and his clients for his thoughtful and calm demeanor and for the professionalism with which he conducts himself. His writing is thorough, logical and well researched, and his legal analysis is excellent. The Candidate is active is his community and has held leadership positions within the Boy Scouts of America. The Commission believes the Candidate would perform satisfactorily on the Commonwealth Court and recommends his candidacy.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association exists to promote justice, professional excellence and respect of the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access to legal services; and serve the 27,000 lawyers who are members of the association.