PBA Judicial Evaluation Commission Issues Ratings for Judicial Candidates, Provides Information for Voters

HARRISBURG (April 5, 2011) - In just a few weeks, voters will be selecting candidates seeking election to the state's appellate courts in November. Candidates are seeking to fill one seat on the Superior Court and one seat on the Commonwealth Court.

To better inform voters about the candidates in this statewide election, the Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission today issued its ratings and descriptive paragraphs for all appellate judge candidates appearing on the May 17 primary ballots.

Each candidate seeking to fill a vacancy and requesting an evaluation by the PBA JEC is eligible to receive a rating of "Highly Recommended," "Recommended" or "Not Recommended." The commission's ratings are as follows:

Superior Court of Pennsylvania -
Highly Recommended
Judge David N. Wecht, Allegheny County

Recommended
Judge Paula A. Patrick, Philadelphia County
Victor P. Stabile, Dauphin County

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania -
Highly Recommended
Judge Paul P. Panepinto, Philadelphia County

Recommended
Kathryn Boockvar, Bucks County
Anne E. Covey, Bucks County

Not Recommended
Barbara Behrend Ernsberger, Allegheny County (for failure to participate in evaluation process)

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 using the following criteria:

  • 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.

"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."

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; Richard A. Estacio of Philadelphia County; Stephanie F. Latimore of Dauphin County; Sharon R. Lopez of Lancaster County; Pamela J. Mayer of Cambria County; C. Edward S. Mitchell of Lycoming County; Kimberly Moses of Allegheny County; Rebecca L. Reinhardt of Lycoming County; Kathryn Lease Simpson of Dauphin County; and Lorrie Elylice Whitfield of Monroe 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; Diane Wakefield of Beaver County; and Matthew Woessner of Dauphin County.

RATING PARAGRAPHS FOR CANDIDATES SEEKING TO FILL VACANCIES

SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Judge Paula A. Patrick
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate was a solo practitioner for almost 10 years prior to her election as a judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in November 2003. Her judicial duties have been primarily in Juvenile Court handling delinquency and dependency cases. For the past year, she served as Philadelphia's Gun Court judge. Her high volume courtroom is well served by her high energy personality. She is a hard worker, well organized and efficient in managing her caseload. Her judicial peers and lawyers who appear before her agree that the Candidate adapted quickly to being a judge. She is viewed as being knowledgeable about the law, fair to all parties and committed to assuring equal justice to all. She is active in her community. The commission recommends the Candidate to serve as a judge of the Superior Court.

Victor P. Stabile
Rating: Recommended

Throughout his career as a civil litigator, the Candidate has been held in high regard by his peers, who commend his integrity, strong work ethic and civility. He served as a clerk for a Commonwealth Court judge before working as a litigator in the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General. More recently, he has distinguished himself as the managing partner of his firm's Harrisburg office, where he handles complex civil litigation matters. His writing skills are strong and his experience handling cases before the appellate courts is solid. He has an exemplary record of pro bono service, and he has also served his community as a member of his township's Board of Supervisors. Based on his strong intellect, passion for the law and even temperament, the commission recommends him for a position on the Superior Court.

Judge David N. Wecht
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Candidate has served with distinction over the past eight years as a judge on the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. He recently served as the administrative judge of the Family Division, where he implemented innovative programs, including "One Family, One Judge" to provide consistency in the adjudication of legal issues that are addressed by that division. As a Family Court judge, the Candidate had experience in both the domestic relations and juvenile justice functions. While in the Family Division, he served on a regular basis in the Civil Division of the court, where he is now sits. His opinions evidence thoughtful scholarly research and demonstrate his keen intellect. He is respectful of litigants in his court, and his opinions demonstrate his understanding of both sides of the matters before him. His love of the law is apparent not only by his service on the bench but also by his teaching at the law school and college levels and by the publication of many articles. The Candidate has the breadth of experience and knowledge required to serve with distinction on the Superior Court and is highly recommended.

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Kathryn Boockvar
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate has a varied background that includes working in a private law practice and as a legal services and public interest lawyer, most recently working on election law matters. She is regarded as bright, hard working and a zealous advocate for her clients. She communicates well. Her record of community service and bar association and professional organization activities is adequate but not extensive. She is experienced in handling cases that regularly come before the Commonwealth Court, but her appellate experience, including her experience before the Commonwealth Court, is limited. The commission finds that the Candidate possesses the legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament to perform satisfactorily as a judge of the Commonwealth Court and recommends her as a candidate for a seat on that court.

Anne E. Covey
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate has been a member of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board since 2002. Her legal experience is primarily representing businesses in the area of employment and labor relations. She has counseled, taught and consulted widely in matters involving this subject area. The Candidate is the author of numerous law review and law journal articles and a book, The Workplace Law Advisor. She demonstrates intelligence, writing ability, administrative experience, and judicial temperament. The commission concludes that the Candidate possesses good character, integrity and an excellent work ethic and that she would be able to perform satisfactorily as a judge on the Commonwealth Court.

Barbara Behrend Ernsberger - Rating: Not Recommended (for failure to participate in evaluation process)

The Commission issued a "Not Recommended" rating to this candidate for failure to participate in the evaluation process.

Judge Paul P. Panepinto
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Candidate has a breadth and depth of legal knowledge and experience garnered from his service as a judge on the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia since 1990. He is held in high regard by his colleagues and lawyers. The Candidate has demonstrated excellence and innovation in court administration, complex litigation matters and implementation of programs to combat truancy and violence. His legal writings are clear and well-reasoned. The Candidate's service on the Court of Judicial Discipline inspired his interest in restoring public trust. Based on his demonstrated ability to generate systemic change and his unique "big picture" perspective, the commission highly recommends this Candidate for Commonwealth Court.

Questionnaires submitted by the November 2011 appellate court candidates participating in the PBA JEC evaluation process, the PBA JEC's evaluation paragraphs and additional information about Pennsylvania's appellate courts are posted on the following website: http://www.pavotesmart.com.

Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association exists to promote justice, professional excellence and respect of the law; improve public understanding of the justice system; and facilitate access to legal services. The PBA represents more than 29,000 lawyers who are licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania.