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PBA Judicial Evaluation Commission Releases 2009 Judicial Ratings

HARRISBURG (May 5, 2009) - The Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission has completed five rounds 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."

The Pennsylvania Bar Association commission 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

Superior Court of Pennsylvania -
Highly Recommended

Judge Anne E. Lazarus, Philadelphia County
Judge Judith F. Olson, Allegheny County

Recommended
Judge Robert J. Colville, Allegheny County
Kevin F. McCarthy, Allegheny County
Sallie Updyke Mundy, Tioga County
Judge Thomas J. Munley, Lackawanna County
Judge Paula A. Patrick, Philadelphia County
Templeton Smith Jr., Allegheny County
Judge John Milton Younge, Philadelphia County

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania -
Recommended

Daniel K. Bricmont, Allegheny County
Kevin Brobson, Dauphin County
Judge Alfonso Frioni Jr., Allegheny County
Linda S. Judson, Allegheny County
Judge James Murray Lynn, Philadelphia County
Judge Patricia A. McCullough, Allegheny County
Stephen G. Pollock, Philadelphia County
Michael Sherman, Allegheny County

Not Recommended
Barbara Jo Ernsberger, 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

Judge Cheryl L. Allen
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Candidate served with distinction as a judge on the Common Pleas Court of Allegheny County from 1990 until 2007 when she was elected to the Superior Court. She is held in high esteem by her colleagues on the bench as well as by those who appear before her. She has extensive experience and particular expertise in the area of juvenile law. She implemented numerous innovative programs to address the needs of children, with emphasis on the importance of education and mentoring programs. The Candidate is known for her scholarly and thoughtful opinions, intellect, work ethic and passionate commitment to furthering justice. She has demonstrated fairness and compassion in all aspects of her professional career and service to her community. She has a keen, analytical mind, and she enjoys a well-earned reputation as a productive, principled and dedicated jurist. She has been recognized with several awards from the community. Lawyers have found her to be prepared and conscientious in her decision making. She has the breadth of experience and knowledge of the Rule of Law to serve with distinction on the highest court. She is highly recommended for this position.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge 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.

Judge Jack A. Panella
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Candidate currently serves as a judge of the Superior Court, having been elected in November 2003. He previously served more than 12 years as a common pleas judge in Northampton County, and before that was a practicing attorney and county solicitor. He has served as a judge and President Judge of the Court of Judicial Discipline, where charges against judicial officers are heard, and as chair of the Judicial Conduct Board, which investigates claims of ethical misconduct against Pennsylvania judges and brings charges in meritorious cases. His service on the Commission for Justice Initiatives in Pennsylvania exemplifies his commitment to the improvement of the quality of justice. He is the principal author of an important bench book for Pennsylvania trial judges about crimes of sexual violence. His written opinions are crafted with clarity and precision. During his time on the bench, he has shown both sound judicial temperament and exceptional administrative ability. The Commission believes the Candidate possesses a rare combination of intellect, energy and skills that qualify him as highly recommended to ascend to the Supreme Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge 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.

SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Judge Robert J. Colville
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate has served as a judge in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County since 2000. Prior to becoming a judge, the candidate was in private practice and had served as a law clerk for Justice Ralph J. Cappy. Although he was elected to the bench at a relatively young age, he has clearly demonstrated sufficient legal ability and judicial temperament to have earned the respect of lawyers and other members of the bench. His work as the toxic substance case supervising judge highlights his administrative ability. The Candidate is extremely hard working and passionate about the improvement of the quality of justice. He enjoys and thoroughly understands his role as a judge. The Commission believes that the Candidate possesses the character, integrity, judicial temperament and skills to serve as a Superior Court judge.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Anne E. Lazarus
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Candidate has served as a common pleas judge in Philadelphia County for 18 years. She was elected to a 10-year term in November 1991 and retained for a second term in 2001. For the past five years, she has served as an Orphan's Court judge. She previously served as a law clerk and practiced law in a solo practice and later with a large firm. The Candidate serves as chair of the Ethics Committee of the State Conference of Trial Judges and is called upon for advice on ethical questions by members of both the bench and bar. She has an impressive record of facilitating settlement in a large number of cases assigned to her. The Candidate is intelligent, thoughtful, candid and scholarly, and she demonstrates superior writing ability, knowledge of the law and exceptional judicial temperament. Her advocacy of pro bono service has encouraged lawyers to participate in these programs. The candidate has mentored law students and young lawyers and has served in many capacities in community organizations. The Commission concludes that the Candidate would bring exceptional skills, experience and personal qualities to the Superior Court and would serve the court and the commonwealth with distinction.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Kevin F. McCarthy
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.

Sallie Updyke Mundy
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate has had diverse legal experience in her twenty-one year legal career. She has handled a variety of civil litigation matters, including medical malpractice defense cases and plaintiff personal injury cases. Recently, the Candidate has served as a voluntary assistant public defender in Tioga County. She has served as a member and then chair of a hearing committee of the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Candidate is bright and articulate and is regarded by her peers as personable, hardworking and compassion. She is dedicated to the improvement of the quality of justice and her writings are clear and concise. The Commission recommends her for a position on the Superior Court. (Commission member Riley recused himself from participation in the evaluation and rating of this Candidate.)

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Thomas J. Munley
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate has served as a judge on the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County since January 2006. For 31 years prior to his service on the bench, he was a sole practitioner and assistant public defender, primarily practicing in the area of criminal defense. During that period, he had extensive jury trial experience. As a trial judge, he has presided over family law and juvenile matters. He has the reputation of treating all who appear before him with respect and dignity. He served with distinction in the military and has served the community through his work for veterans' organizations. For eight years, he appeared on a nightly television show to dispense legal advice as a service to the public. On the basis of his extensive trial experience and excellent judicial temperament, the Commission recommends the candidate for a position on the Superior Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge Judith F. Olson
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Candidate excelled academically in both college and law school. She was a skilled and successful litigator, with broad experience in both the trial and appellate courts. In October 2008, she was appointed to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. She is regarded by her peers as intelligent, ethical, congenial and fair and has a well-rounded reputation for diligence and productivity. Her character and integrity are beyond reproach, and she brings energy and enthusiasm to a commitment for the improvement of justice. In addition, the Candidate is committed to extensive community service. The Commission highly recommends her for a seat on the Superior Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge 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.

Templeton Smith Jr.
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate has extensive experience as an appellate advocate and has appeared before the Superior Court on numerous occasions. His substantive legal experience covers a wide variety of areas, including zoning, land use, commercial, medical malpractice and tort litigation. The Candidate is recognized for his strong writing abilities, scholarly legal analysis and effective advocacy. He has taught continuing legal education courses and has participated in bar association committees. In addition, he has provided pro bono support for church and community organizations. The Candidate has the requisite legal experience, intellectual ability, character and integrity to render him competent to fulfill the demanding responsibilities of a Superior Court judge and, therefore, the Commission recommends him for a position on the court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Judge John Milton Younge
Rating: Recommended

With a long history of public service, the Candidate currently serves as a judge in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. During his twelve-year tenure, he has presided over a diverse and heavy caseload in both the civil and criminal divisions. His fairness and judicial demeanor are uniformly praised. Prior to becoming a judge, the Candidate served as staff counsel, deputy executive director and general counsel to the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority. He previously maintained a solo law practice. He is active in his church and the community. His past service as president of the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges indicates the high regard in which he is held by his peers. The Commission believes the Candidate possesses the requisite legal ability and experience, character, integrity and work ethic to recommend him for a position on the Superior Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Daniel K. Bricmont
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.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Kevin Brobson
Rating: Recommended

Since completing his federal judicial clerkship, the Candidate has concentrated his practice in the areas of administrative law and insurance law, both of which fall within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court. His writings are analytical, logical, clear, cogent and easily read. Even though he is involved in a busy, complex practice, the Candidate has found time for civic duties and community service. He has demonstrated the legal ability sufficient to have earned the respect of lawyers and members of the bench. The Candidate possesses the requisite knowledge of the rules of evidence and courtroom procedures. He has the appropriate judicial temperament. Based on his credentials, experience, and writing ability, the Candidate is recommended to serve on the Commonwealth Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Barbara Jo Ernsberger
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.

Judge Alfonso Frioni Jr.
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate has served as one of 15 administrative appeals judges/commissioners on the State Workers' Compensation Appeals Board since 1996. The board has statewide jurisdiction and the Candidate travels extensively to handle the large caseload. Although his legal expertise is narrowly focused in the area of workers' compensation, he is committed to maintaining the legitimacy and competency of the Appeals Board and seeks to inspire confidence in all those appearing before it. The Candidate has demonstrated competence and integrity in his professional and personal life and has a dedicated record of community service. The Commission believes the Candidate would be able to perform satisfactorily as a judge on the Commonwealth Court.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Linda S. Judson
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.

Judge James Murray Lynn
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.

Judge Patricia A. McCullough
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate worked for eight years as assistant general counsel for the University of Pittsburgh. She also has practiced law as a solo practitioner in Pittsburgh. She has served on the Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review. The Candidate was appointed as a judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County and served for nine months as a Family Law Court judge. She also served as executive director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for a year. The Candidate has an impressive record of community service and is regarded as bright and committed to her work. Although the Candidate's trial court and appellate experience is somewhat limited, the Commission concludes that she would be able to perform satisfactorily as a judge of the Commonwealth Court. (Commission member Shepard recused himself from participation in the evaluation and rating of this Candidate.)

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Stephen G. Pollock
Rating: Recommended

The Candidate has been a practicing attorney for more than 32 years and has a broad range of experience in general litigation, workers' compensation, transactional, real estate, municipal, land use and zoning law. In recent years, he has limited his practice to land use and zoning issues. He is widely recognized as an expert in these areas and has lectured widely. The Candidate has served on a township planning commission since 1991. In 2003, he was appointed by the governor to the State Planning Board. He has served as co-chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association's Committee on Zoning, Land Use and Code Enforcement. He is involved in community organizations. He was actively engaged as the president of his synagogue and a local library association. The Candidate is bright, scholarly, hard working and has excellent legal writing ability. His excellent temperament and expertise in the area of zoning and land use form the basis for the Commission's recommendation of the Candidate for a position on the Commonwealth Court.

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.

More information about Pennsylvania's appellate courts is available at www.pavotesmart.com.