PBA Judicial Evaluation Commission Releases Retention Ratings for Judicial Candidates

HARRISBURG (Sept. 28, 2011) - The Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission today released its ratings of one Supreme Court justice, two Superior Court judges and three Commonwealth Court judges who are standing for retention in the November 2011 election.

The ratings for the retention candidates are as follows:

  • Justice J. Michael Eakin, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania - Recommended for Retention
  • Judge John T. Bender, Superior Court of Pennsylvania - Recommended for Retention
  • Judge Mary Jane Bowes, Superior Court of Pennsylvania - Recommended for Retention
  • Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer, Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania - Recommended for Retention
  • Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt, Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania - Recommended for Retention
  • Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr., Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania - Recommended for Retention

"Our commission's duty is to provide information that Pennsylvanians want and need to make informed voting decisions about judicial candidates," said Pittsburgh lawyer Chris F. Gillotti, chair of the PBA JEC. "Following our investigative evaluations, we recommend only those candidates that will best serve in Pennsylvania's courts."

Because retention elections require only a "Yes" or "No" vote of the public, the commission rates retention candidates either as "Recommended for Retention" or "Not Recommended for Retention."

The commission based its findings for each candidate on a two-part evaluation process. Investigative panels conducted the first phase of the process, which included a thorough review of the candidate's completed questionnaire, an analysis of written opinions authored by the retention candidate within the last three to five years, and interviews with judges and lawyers who have appeared before the retention candidate.

The panels then submitted confidential written reports to the commission outlining their preliminary, non-binding recommendations.

The commission members reviewed the questionnaires and opinions as well as the investigative panel reports, and where necessary, interviewed the panel chairs before rendering its own evaluation and recommendation.

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 Delaware 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.

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 28,000 lawyers who are licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania.

RATINGS PARAGRAPHS

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Justice J. Michael Eakin
Rating: Recommended for Retention

The Candidate has served on the Supreme Court since January 2002. His opinions are thorough, thoughtful, cogent and concise. He has authored several opinions in poetic verse, which has drawn praise in some legal circles and criticism in others. He is an active participant at oral argument, frequently questioning counsel to assist him and the other members of the court in understanding the nuances of particular issues. The Candidate is known for his quick wit and friendly nature. Although demonstrating a collegial attitude to the lawyers who appear before him and to his peers on the Supreme Court, he has not been reluctant to author dissenting opinions when he felt it was necessary and important to do so. Regarded as fair, impartial, independent and unlikely to be swayed by public opinion or media criticism, the Candidate has earned the respect of lawyers and judges in the Commonwealth. The commission recommends the Candidate's retention.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

Judge John T. Bender
Rating: Recommended for Retention

The Candidate has served on the Superior Court 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 complexity of the subject matter. 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 issues 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. The commission recommends the Candidate's retention.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Mary Jane Bowes
Rating: Recommended for Retention

The Candidate has served as a Superior Court judge since January 2002. She has earned the respect of lawyers and her peers for her strong work ethic, her exceptional intellect, her judicial temperament and her dedication to improving the quality of justice through legal education and community involvement. The Candidate is a frequent participant in continuing legal education panels, serves on the Pennsylvania Bar Association Appellate Advocacy Committee and is involved with the "Color of Justice" program in which female judges meet with female minority high school students. The Candidate's written opinions are logically organized and written with clarity and sound legal reasoning. The commission recommends the Candidate's retention.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer
Recommended for Retention

The Candidate has served as a Commonwealth Court judge since January 2002. The Candidate has a reputation for being bright, engaged and a hard worker. The Candidate possesses good judicial temperament and is courteous, compassionate and impartial. She has a well-defined sense of justice and works hard to improve the quality of justice through her contribution to continuing legal education for lawyers and judges. The Candidate's legal opinions are well written and reflect a high degree of ability to interpret and apply legal principles and provide clear direction for advocates and agencies. The Candidate's service on the Commonwealth Court demonstrates her ability to fulfill the responsibilities of an appellate court judge. The commission recommends the Candidate's retention.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt
Recommended for Retention

The Candidate has served as a Commonwealth Court judge since January 2002. She has impressed and therefore has earned the admiration and respect of the lawyers who practice in her court. She has been collegial in her dealings with other judges. The Candidate is extremely bright and articulate. Her opinions are clear and concise and demonstrate excellent critical analysis skills and outstanding legal ability. The Candidate's integrity and strength of character are evident in her decision making. She continues to provide continuing legal education to the entire legal community. Her judicial temperament is above reproach. The Candidate clearly demonstrates all of the qualities necessary to serve as an appellate judge. The commission recommends the Candidate's retention.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Robert E. Simpson, Jr.
Recommended for Retention

The Candidate has served as a Commonwealth Court judge since January 2002. The Candidate's opinions contain excellent writing and reflect sound analytical abilities. He shows superior knowledge of matters that are brought to the Commonwealth Court, and he has earned the respect of lawyers and other members of the bench throughout his legal career. He is regarded as a jurist of integrity and excellent character. The Candidate clearly demonstrates all of the qualities necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of an appellate judge. The commission recommends the Candidate's retention.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.




 


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