PBA Judicial Evaluation Commission Releases Retention Ratings for Judicial

HARRISBURG (Sept. 13, 2017) — The Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission today released its ratings of two Supreme Court justices and one Superior Court judge who are standing for retention in the November 2017 election.

The ratings for the retention candidates are as follows:

  • Justice Debra McCloskey Todd, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania — Recommended for Retention
  • Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania — Recommended for Retention
  • Judge Jackie Shogan, Superior Court of Pennsylvania — Recommended for Retention

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 in the leadership of the PBA JEC is Montgomery County lawyer Robert F. Morris as chair, Heidi B. Masano of Berks County as vice chair and Erie County lawyer Steven E. (Tim) Riley Jr. as immediate past chair. Lawyer members include Richard A. Estacio of Lancaster County, Edward G. Lanza of Dauphin County, Stephanie F. Latimore of Dauphin County, C. Edward S. Mitchell of Lycoming County, Kimberly Denean Moses of Allegheny County, Rhoda Shear Neft of Allegheny County, Denise C. Pekelnicky of Erie County, Howard Alan Rothenberg of Lackawanna County and Su Ming Yeh of Philadelphia County. Non-lawyer members are Victoria A. Connor of York County, Gregory Cowhey of Philadelphia County, Keith W. Eckel of Lackawanna County, Melody A. Filicky of Fayette County, Edith M. Marino of Lycoming County and Matthew C. Woessner of Dauphin County.

The PBA JEC’s descriptions of its findings for each retention candidate are below. The candidates’ questionnaires can be found in the Media Center of the PBA website at www.pabar.org and the PBA-sponsored voter education website, PAVoteSmart, at www.pavotesmart.com.  


Justice Debra McCloskey Todd

Rating: Recommended for Retention

The candidate has served eight years on the Superior Court and ten years on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. She is a distinguished member of the judiciary and is described as enthusiastic, hard-working, attentive and intelligent. The candidate’s opinions are thorough, concise, scholarly and easily understood, and she carries out her administrative duties with seriousness of purpose.  She headed the Elder Task Force which later became Elder Justice in the Courts. The candidate is a member of the Elder Justice Advisory Council serving as its judicial liaison. She is also the court’s liaison to the Veteran’s Courts and the Interbranch Commission on Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness. The candidate’s integrity, legal ability, judicial temperament and commitment to the legal profession serve her well on the bench. The commission recommends her retention.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Chief Justice Thomas Saylor

Rating: Recommended for Retention

The candidate has served on the Supreme Court since 1998; he has been Chief Justice since 2015. The candidate is known by attorneys and his colleagues for adhering to the principle that all persons accused of a crime have constitutional rights that should not be diminished. His opinions, which are described as well written, thoughtful and intellectual, provide the reader with a logical path to the conclusion reached. The candidate possesses a unique legal aptitude, leadership abilities and a high degree of integrity that is well suited for the Supreme Court. His judicial temperament is above reproach. For these reasons, the commission believes the candidate should continue his distinguished service to the court and to the public and, therefore, recommends his retention.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire. 


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.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association strives to promote justice, professional excellence and respect for the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access to legal services; and serve the 26,000 lawyers who are members of the association.