PENNSYLVANIA BAR ASSOCIATION JUDICIAL EVALUATION COMMISSION 2017 SUPERIOR COURT CANDIDATE RATINGS    

RATINGS OF RETENTION CANDIDATE

Judge Jackie Shogan

Rating: Recommended for Retention

The candidate has served as a judge of the Superior Court since 2008.  Throughout her career and particularly in her position as judge, she is recognized as possessing a keen grasp of complex legal principles. She has demonstrated sound judgment and possesses excellent judicial temperament.  Her opinions are exceptionally well written, concise and thorough.  In her role as chair of the court’s Internal Operating Procedures Committee, the candidate is devoted to improving the quality of justice and the efficiency of the court.  Her integrity and character are beyond reproach, and she is held in high regard by members of the legal profession who have appeared before her. The candidate has consistently demonstrated all the qualities necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of an appellate judge, and the commission recommends her retention.

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candidate’s questionnaire.


RATINGS OF CANDIDATES FOR FOUR VACANCIES

Judge Emil A. Giordano

Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate is an experienced jurist known for his high degree of professionalism, good judicial temperament and reputation for integrity. He is engaging, sincere, intelligent and affable. The candidate is collegial and has the ability to work with others who do not share his opinion or perspective. He has served as a common pleas court judge since 2004 and was retained for a second 10-year term in 2013.  He has a broad perspective and wide knowledge of the law, the rules of procedure and the rules of evidence because of his background and experience as a trial lawyer, prosecutor, public defender, municipal solicitor and a sitting judge. His opinions and legal writings are well reasoned. He gained experience addressing the office, personnel and fiscal needs of running a court while serving as an administrative judge for the Orphans' Court and Domestic Relations Section of the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas. The candidate volunteers in his community and teaches about legal topics at local educational institutions. He has demonstrated his commitment to legal and judicial ethics as a member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Orphans' Court Procedural Rules Committee and Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges. Because of his broad experience as a practicing attorney, proven record of judicial leadership, high ethical standards and dedication to the legal profession, the commission is confident that the candidate would serve with distinction as a Superior Court judge and highly recommends his candidacy. 

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Judge Wade A. Kagarise

Rating: Recommended

Elected to the Blair County Court of Common Pleas in 2013, the candidate has presided over a variety of cases, including civil, criminal and family matters. Prior to his tenure on the court, the candidate was the chief deputy district attorney of Blair County on a part-time basis. The candidate also maintained a private litigation practice that focused on family, civil and labor law. Although the candidate has limited time on the bench, the attorneys who practice before him agree that he has developed a judicial demeanor that will serve him well on the appellate court. His opinions are delivered in a timely manner and are well written and researched. The commission believes that the candidate would perform satisfactorily on the Superior Court and recommends his candidacy.    

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Judge Deborah A. Kunselman

Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate serves as an administrative judge for the Civil Division of the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas. Prior to her tenure on the court, she was a litigator practicing in a variety of areas, including family law and employment discrimination. From 1998 to 2005, she served as Beaver County solicitor. She was elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 2005During her tenure on the bench, she has been responsible for a variety of judicial efficiencies, including clearing up a significant docket backlog. She was also responsible for the implementation of the Beaver County involuntary commitment program for minors requiring drug and alcohol treatment. Her colleagues describe her as professional, knowledgeable, fair and prepared. The candidate has a writing style that is clear and easy to follow. She has extensive community involvement and has taught courses for both professional and lay audiences. Because of her experience as a practicing attorney, extensive teaching experience, proven record of judicial leadership and strong dedication to improving the quality of justice, the commission is confident that the candidate would serve with distinction as a Superior Court justice and highly recommends her candidacy.

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Judge Maria C. McLaughlin

Rating:  Recommended

The candidate has served as a family law judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas since 2012. After clerking for a Superior Court judge and graduating from law school in 1992, the candidate began her career with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, where she was assigned to the Child Support Enforcement Unit. In 2003 she was appointed chief of that unit. Since the writing samples she submitted are limited and narrow in scope, the commission is unable to thoroughly evaluate her legal writing skills. She is described as hard working, congenial, dedicated, practical and willing to do what it takes to learn what she needs to know. The candidate is commended as an excellent mentor and for her service to the community. She is noted for her patience and fairness to litigants and lawyers who appear before her. The commission believes she possesses the requisite ability to serve on the Superior Court and recommends her candidacy.

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Jules Mermelstein

Rating: Not Recommended (for failure to participate)

Judge H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr.

Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate currently serves on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, having been appointed and sworn into office in August 2016. Prior to his appointment, the candidate’s work history included extensive trial work. He served the commonwealth in the Governor’s Office of General Counsel and in the Office of the Attorney General. Additionally, the candidate’s work history includes the following: associate professor at the Widener School of Law; first assistant U.S. attorney at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania; deputy special inspector general and chief of staff at the Office of the Special Inspector General for Troubled Asset Relief; and chief counsel for U.S. Sen. Edward K. Kaufman. Earlier in his career, he served as a law clerk to Chief Judge Wilfred Feinberg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and to U.S. Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist. The candidate is highly regarded by those who have interacted with him, including colleagues, lawyers and law students. He has proven himself intelligent, well written, impartial and of the highest integrity. This commission believes that the candidate possesses the highest combination of legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament and, therefore, highly recommends his candidacy for the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

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Mary P. Murray

Rating: Not Recommended (for failure to participate)

Judge Carolyn H. Nichols

Rating: Recommended

Before being elected to the bench, the candidate worked for the City of Philadelphia Law Department and the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation and maintained a solo legal practice predominantly performing employment law. In 2011, the candidate was elected to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, and since that time has exclusively overseen criminal matters. The candidate’s reputation among her colleagues is one of intelligence, conscientiousness and objectivity. She is known for high ethical standards. Her opinion and legal writings are well reasoned. 

The commission initially had concerns that, as a consequence of reposting articles touching on social issues, it could appear as though the candidate were taking a public position on matters that might come before the court. When directly questioned on this issue, the candidate displayed respect for the commission’s concerns and was willing to re-examine her practice. In discussing the issue, the candidate demonstrated a commitment to impartiality and judicial temperament consistent with the highest standards required by the judiciary. Sensitive to the importance of maintaining impartiality, the candidate committed to personally monitor her social media posts during her campaign and to discontinue her use of social media if elected.

Based on the candidate’s strong reputation, experience and judicial temperament, the commission recommends the candidate to serve on the Superior Court.

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Craig W. Stedman

Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate is the current Lancaster County district attorney. He was elected to the position in 2007 after serving 17 years as an assistant attorney in that office in a variety of leadership roles. The candidate’s practice in the District Attorney’s Office has included the successful prosecution of a variety of crimes, including complex homicide and sexual abuse cases. The candidate has argued before the Superior Court on numerous occasions. As district attorney, the candidate sets the priorities and policies of the office, and, in the exercise of discretion, he exhibits fairness and a commitment to outreach, prevention and education. Under his leadership, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office has implemented a variety of programs directed at addressing the current heroin epidemic. The commission was impressed with the candidate’s commitment to fairness and his even-keeled temperament, which he attributes to his training in the U.S. Army, where he achieved the rank of captain in military intelligence. While the candidate’s career has been primarily focused on criminal law, the commission is confident of his intellectual capabilities and the ability to transfer legal principles and reasoning to other areas of law required to serve on the Superior Court. The candidate has a strong history of community service in the Lancaster area, which has been primarily focused on crime and safety. Because of his intelligence, commitment to fairness and high ethical standards, the commission highly recommends the candidate for the Superior Court. 

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.