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PBA Judicial Evaluation Commission Releases Retention Ratings for Judicial Candidates

HARRISBURG (Sept. 4, 2009) - The Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission today released its ratings of one Superior Court judge and one Commonwealth Court judge who are standing for retention in the November 2009 election.

The ratings for the retention candidates are as follows:

  • Superior Court of Pennsylvania Judge Kate Ford Elliot - Recommended for Retention
  • Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania Judge Dan Pellegrini - 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; 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; and John F. Stoviak of Philadelphia County. Non-lawyer members are Denice Ferranti-Robinson of Fayette County; Jeraldine D. Kozloff of Berks County; James McAfee of Centre County; Susan Sherman of Philadelphia County; John D. Unangst of Delaware County; and Diane Wakefield of Beaver 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 29,000 lawyers who are licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania.

Editor's notes: The PBA JEC's descriptions of its findings for each retention candidate are below. An electronic version of this information and the candidates' questionnaires can be found in the Media Center of the PBA Web site at http://www.pabar.org.

RATINGS PARAGRAPHS

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

Judge Kate Ford Elliott
Rating: Recommended for Retention

The Candidate has served with distinction as a Pennsylvania Superior Court judge since 1990. In that capacity, she has earned a reputation for a superior intellect, an extraordinarily high work ethic and admirable judicial knowledge. The Candidate's merits as a jurist and administrator culminated in her election by her peers to the position of president judge of the Superior Court, a position in which she has served since January 2006. Notwithstanding her assumption of administrative responsibility for the court, her opinions continue to be consistently well-written, demonstrating thorough and impartial legal analysis of both the substantive and procedural issues. Her reputation for integrity and her judicial temperament are above reproach. Despite maintaining an extensive case load in a heavily overburdened court, the Candidate has demonstrated a long-term commitment to significant participation in legal education of both lawyers and judges and in numerous civic and law-related activities. Based upon her leadership, high integrity, outstanding scholarship, thoughtful understanding of the law and fair and even-handed approach, the Commission recommends that the Candidate be retained.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

Judge Dan Pellegrini
Rating: Recommended for Retention

The Candidate has served as a Commonwealth Court judge since 1990. Prior to serving on the bench, he practiced law in the City of Pittsburgh Law Department and eventually became city solicitor. This experience provided him with a caseload that mirrored the types of cases that come before the Commonwealth Court. The Candidate has both a theoretical and practical understanding of the law and its historical origins. He is viewed as bright, scholarly and energetic. He exercises sound judgment and displays a courteous manner and appropriate judicial temperament. The Candidate's opinions are well conceived and constructed, reflecting a thorough understanding of the facts and trial court record under review. The Candidate participates frequently in continuing legal education programs and other educational efforts to improve the quality of the legal system. His integrity and personal character are beyond reproach, and he is held in high esteem by his judicial colleagues and the bar. The Candidate clearly demonstrated all of the qualities necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of an appellate judge during his two previous terms on the Commonwealth Court, and the Commission recommends his retention.

Read the Candidate's questionnaire.

Source: Pennsylvania Bar Association, 100 South Street, Harrisburg, PA 17108