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PBA Judicial Evaluation Commission Releases Second Round of 2009 Judicial Ratings

HARRISBURG (Jan. 21, 2009) - The Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission (PBA JEC) today released its second round of ratings for potential judicial candidates seeking election to the state's appellate courts in November.

Each candidate requesting an evaluation by the PBA JEC is eligible to receive a rating of "Highly Recommended," "Recommended" or "Not Recommended." More evaluations with other potential candidates will be held later this month.

The PBA JEC's ratings completed during the second round of evaluations are as follows:

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania -
Highly Recommended

Judge Joan Orie Melvin, Allegheny County
Judge Paul Panepinto, Philadelphia County

Superior Court of Pennsylvania -

Judge Paula A. Patrick, Philadelphia County

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania -
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.


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.


Hon. Joan Orie Melvin
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Candidate was elected to the Superior Court in 1997 and was retained by the voters for a second term in 2007. She previously served seven years as a judge on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas and five years as chief magistrate of the Pittsburgh Municipal Court, where she is credited for establishing the first Domestic Violence Court in Pennsylvania. She also worked for two years on a corporate legal staff and two years in private practice in Pittsburgh. Her diligence, organizational skills and strong work ethic have served her well in handling the heavy caseload of the Superior Court. Her written opinions are cogent and well reasoned. The Candidate has an impressive record of involvement in professional activities and community service, including her recent development of a program for high school students about the legal consequences of Internet usage. She is recognized as genial and fair minded, and she has demonstrated sound judicial temperament. She is respected by her colleagues on the Superior Court, the lawyers who have appeared before her and those who have worked with her in the community. Based on her solid record of performance, the Commission concludes that the Candidate is deserving of its highest rating.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Hon. Paul Panepinto
Rating: Highly Recommended

Innovation in the administration of justice has been a hallmark of the Candidate's judicial career. A member of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia since 1990, he is held in high regard by both lawyers practicing before him and his colleagues on the bench. As administrative judge of the Family Court in Philadelphia, he developed a truancy program that has become a national model. In addition to his solid record of court administration, the Candidate demonstrates expertise in handling complex litigation matters. He is a good communicator, and he demonstrates solid consensus-building skills. Hardworking, evenhanded, thoughtful and enthusiastic about the law, the Candidate's knowledge of established principles of the law is self evident. The Commission highly recommends the Candidate for a seat on the Supreme Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.


Hon. Paula A. Patrick
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate was a solo practitioner for almost ten 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. She is a hard worker and is well organized and efficient in managing her caseload. Lawyers who have appeared before her found the Candidate to be fair. According to her judicial peers, the Candidate adapted quickly to being a judge and is extremely knowledgeable about the law. She is active in her church and community. She appears to be committed to assuring equal justice to all. The Commission recommends the Candidate to serve as a judge of the Superior Court based on her judicial temperament, integrity and legal skills.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.


Michael Sherman
Rating: Recommended

The candidate has extensive experience in the area of Workers' Compensation and has earned a reputation as an excellent practitioner with good analytical and writing skills. He has distinguished himself as a frequent lecturer and author in continuing legal education programs in his specialized area of practice. In the course of his 25 years of practice, he has argued before the Commonwealth Court on numerous occasions. The Candidate has freely contributed to community activities. The Commission recommends the Candidate to serve as a judge of the Commonwealth Court based on his expertise, integrity and temperament.

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 29,000 lawyers who are members of the association.