PBA Judicial Evaluation Commission Releases Third Round of 2009 Judicial Ratings

HARRISBURG (Jan. 30, 2009) - The Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission (PBA JEC) today released its third round of ratings for potential judicial candidates seeking election to the state's appellate courts in November. The ratings released today are for Democratic candidates who were evaluated by the Commission this week and their ratings are being issued prior to Pennsylvania State Democratic Committee meeting this weekend. Ratings for Republican candidates who completed the evaluation process this week are expected to be issued next week prior to the Republican State Committee meeting.

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 completed during the third round of evaluations are as follows:

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania -
Highly Recommended

Judge Teresa Sarmina, Philadelphia County

Superior Court of Pennsylvania -
Recommended

Kevin F. McCarthy, Allegheny County

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania -
Recommended
Daniel K. Bricmont, Allegheny County
Linda S. Judson, Allegheny County
Judge James Murray Lynn, Philadelphia County

Not Recommended
Barbara Jo Ernsberger, Allegheny County

In two earlier rounds of judicial evaluations, the PBA JEC issued these ratings:

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania -
Highly Recommended

Judge Cheryl L. Allen, Allegheny County
Judge Joan Orie Melvin, Allegheny County
Judge Jack A. Panella, Northampton County
Judge Paul Panepinto, Philadelphia County

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania -
Highly Recommended

Judge Anne E. Lazarus, Philadelphia County

Recommended
Judge Robert J. Colville, Allegheny County
Judge Paula A. Patrick, Philadelphia County
Templeton Smith Jr., Allegheny County
Judge John Milton Younge, Philadelphia County

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania -
Recommended
Judge Alfonso Frioni Jr., Allegheny County
Michael Sherman, Allegheny County

During the upcoming elections, voters will be filling one seat on the Supreme Court, three seats on the Superior Court and two seats on the Commonwealth Court. Voters also will be deciding on the retention of three appellate judges.

"The PBA JEC provides information to help voters choose candidates best suited to serve as fair, impartial and knowledgeable judges," said Pittsburgh lawyer Chris F. Gillotti, chair of the PBA JEC. "By its own definitions, the PBA JEC only recommends potential candidates with the legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament to provide satisfactory or outstanding performance as judges on our appellate benches."

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 Gillotti in the leadership of the PBA JEC is Erie County lawyer Steven E. (Tim) Riley Jr. as co-vice chair and Montgomery County lawyer Robert F. Morris as co-vice chair. Lawyer members include Michael A. Bloom of Philadelphia County; Frederick N. Egler Jr. of Allegheny County; Stephanie F. Latimore of Dauphin County; Lucille Marsh of Lackawanna County; Heidi B. Masano of Berks County; Pamela J. Mayer of Cambria County; Dianne I. Nichols of Dauphin County; Rebecca L. Reinhardt of Lycoming County; Mark D. Shepard of Allegheny County; John F. Stoviak of Philadelphia County; and Joseph C. Waters Jr. of Philadelphia County. Non-lawyer members are Denice Ferranti-Robinson of Fayette County; Jeraldine D. Kozloff of Berks County; Susan Sherman of Philadelphia County; John D. Unangst of Delaware County; and Diane Wakefield of Beaver 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

Hon. Teresa Sarmina, Philadelphia County
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Candidate currently serves as a judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. She was elected in 1997 and retained in 2007. She previously worked as a senior deputy attorney general with responsibility for drug, fraud, antitrust and charitable organization violations. She also worked for five years as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, as a legislative aide to a congressman and as a social worker. Her recent experience as a trial judge has included major criminal cases. She writes with a clear and precise style, and her opinions are well-reasoned and seldom reversed. She has earned the respect of her colleagues on the bench and of the lawyers who have appeared before her. Her integrity and sound judicial temperament are unchallenged. The Commission concludes that the Candidate would bring exceptional skills, experience and commendable personal qualities to the Supreme Court, and the Commission highly recommends her candidacy.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Kevin F. McCarthy, Allegheny County
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate has worked in the appellate unit of the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office since 1990. He has proven to be a superior appellate advocate. He has excellent writing skills. The Candidate is highly regarded by his colleagues in the practice of law and members of the courts before whom he has appeared. He is described by his peers as honest and honorable. The Candidate has taught college, law school and continuing legal education courses. He devotes time to charitable work through his church. He is scholarly, courteous and compassionate. The Commission recommends the Candidate for a position on the Superior Court based on his intellect, character and integrity.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Daniel K. Bricmont, Allegheny County
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate is a practicing lawyer with 18 years experience, primarily in the personal injury area representing injured workers in Social Security Disability, Workers' Compensation and Unemployment Compensation cases. The bulk of his time is spent before Workers' Compensation judges and the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board, with the balance focused on appeal work in the Commonwealth, Superior and Supreme courts. He is regarded by his colleagues as honest, hardworking and professional. He is active in statewide bar associations and in his community. The Commission recommends the Candidate's candidacy to serve on Commonwealth Court based on his legal skills and intellect. (Commission member Riley recused himself from participation in the evaluation and rating of this Candidate.)

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Barbara Jo Ernsberger, Allegheny County
Rating: Not Recommended

Since 1976, the Candidate has worked as a general practitioner and has dealt with a broad spectrum of legal issues, including Workers' Compensation, fraud, consumer protection and estate administration. She has served on the Pittsburgh Planning Commission. Her colleagues state she is hard working and well prepared. However, her appellate experience before the Commonwealth Court is very limited. She lacks a record of scholarly writing, teaching and commitment to improving the quality of justice. The Commission also has concerns about whether the Candidate possesses the temperament required of an appellate court judge. Therefore, the Commission does not recommend her as a candidate at this time.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Linda S. Judson, Allegheny County
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate has an impressive diversity of work and life experience as well as a strong record as an outstanding practitioner in the area of Workers' Compensation law. The Candidate has worked as a director of risk management for a large construction company, a lawyer for an international insurance brokerage, a non-paid board member and treasurer of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority and a licensed practical nurse. During the past 12 years, the Candidate has specialized in Workers' Compensation law, and she is recognized as a leading practitioner in this area. She is articulate and poised. She presents her ideas in a logical and organized manner. She has good writing skills and a good judicial temperament. She has a strong record of community involvement. The Commission believes the Candidate possesses the character, judicial temperament and skills to serve as a Commonwealth Court judge and recommends her as a candidate.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Hon. James Murray Lynn, Philadelphia County
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate has had a long, successful and diverse legal and judicial career. He has served as a judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas since 1991 and was retained by the voters in 2001. He previously served as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia and practiced law in several firms. During his tenure on the bench, he has served on the Family Court and more recently has presided over a wide range of civil cases in which he is credited with achieving a high rate of settlements. His strong record of community service and his commitment to improving the quality of justice are both commendable. His written opinions are well written and reasoned. The Candidate is regarded by his colleagues on the bench and the lawyers who appear before him as pleasant, engaging and collegial. He has demonstrated adequate legal ability and judicial temperament, and his reputation for integrity is unblemished. The Commission concludes the Candidate would be able to perform satisfactorily as a judge of the Commonwealth Court and recommends his candidacy.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.