PBA Judicial Evaluation Commission Reissues Ratings for Judicial Candidates, Provides Information for Voters

HARRISBURG (Oct. 2, 2019) — In a few weeks, voters will be casting ballots to fill two seats on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. Voters also will be deciding whether to retain two judges on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and two judges on the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

To better inform voters about the candidates in this statewide election, the Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission (PBA JEC) is reissuing its ratings and descriptive paragraphs for all appellate judge candidates appearing on the Nov. 5 ballots.

Candidates Seeking To Fill Two Vacancies On The Superior Court Of Pennsylvania

Highly Recommended
Judge Daniel D. McCaffery, Philadelphia County

Recommended
Megan McCarthy King, Chester County
Judge Christylee L. Peck, Cumberland County

Not Recommended
Amanda Green-Hawkins, Allegheny County

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.

The commission includes lawyer and non-lawyer members from across the state.

Each candidate seeking to fill a vacancy and requesting an evaluation by the PBA JEC is eligible to receive a rating of “highly recommended,” “recommended” or “not recommended.”

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.

Retention Candidates For The Superior And Commonwealth Courts Of Pennsylvania

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

Judge Anne E. Lazarus — Recommended for Retention
Judge Judith F. Olson — Recommended for Retention

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

Judge P. Kevin Brobson — Recommended for Retention
Judge Patricia A. McCullough – 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 the results of their investigations.

As the second phase, the commission members reviewed the questionnaires and written opinions, as well as the investigative panel reports, and interviewed the panel chairs before rendering their own evaluation and recommendation.

“Our commission provides information to help voters choose candidates who are best suited to serve as fair, impartial and knowledgeable jurists on our commonwealth’s highest courts,” said Heidi B. Masano of Berks County, chair of the PBA JEC. “The PBA JEC only recommends candidates found to have the legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament that are needed to provide satisfactory or outstanding performance as appellate judges and justices.”

Serving with Masano in the leadership of the PBA JEC are Berks County lawyer Richard A. Estacio and Allegheny County lawyer Kimberly D. Moses, who are the commission’s co-vice chairs, and Montgomery County lawyer Robert F. Morris, who is the commission’s immediate past chair. 

Lawyer members include Jennifer S. Coatsworth of Philadelphia County, Stephanie F. Latimore of Dauphin County, Lara J. Endler of Luzerne County, Brian J. Lindsay of Crawford County, Rhoda Shear Neft of Allegheny County, Denise C. Pekelnicky of Erie County, Howard A. Rothenberg of Lackawanna County, Joel C. Seelye of Blair County and Su Ming Yeh of Philadelphia County.

Non-lawyer members are Victoria A. Connor of York County, Mary A. Coploff of Clinton County, Gregory Cowhey of Philadelphia County, Keith W. Eckel of Lackawanna County, Melody A. Filicky of Fayette County and Edith M. Marino of Lycoming County.

The PBA JEC’s descriptions of its findings for each candidate are below. Online links to the candidates’ questionnaires can be found below, as well as on the PBA website at www.pabar.org and the PBA-sponsored voter education website, PAVoteSmart, at www.pavotesmart.com.

Ratings Paragraphs For Candidates Seeking To Fill Two Vacancies On The Superior Court Of Pennsylvania

Amanda Green-Hawkins
Rating: Not Recommended

The candidate has been an attorney for the United Steel Workers (USW) since 2002. Prior to working at the USW, she served as a law clerk for Judge Laurence Lawson on the Superior Court of New Jersey. At the USW, the candidate has served as an assistant counsel and, most recently, as director of the Civil and Human Rights Division, where she has been charged with providing advice and counsel, overseeing training and compliance, and developing policy. She has successfully argued cases in both federal district and appellate courts. Her peers, mentors and supervisors credit the candidate with having a strong work ethic. The candidate supports underserved communities, acts with integrity and displays an appropriate demeanor. However, the commission finds the candidate has not had the experience and preparation necessary to take on the role of judge on the Pennsylvania Superior Court and, therefore, does not recommend her candidacy at this time.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Megan McCarthy King
Rating: Recommended

The candidate began her legal career in 1996 with the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office where she focused on cases involving child abuse. The candidate then clerked for Justice Thomas Saylor of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from 1999 to 2001. In 2012, the candidate returned to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office where she was integral in leading the Elder Abuse Unit and in maintaining duties in the Child Abuse Unit. In 2015, the candidate began working as the deputy district attorney in the Child Abuse Unit in Chester County. The candidate has extensive criminal trial experience. She is described by attorneys and judges as intelligent, articulate, fair, well prepared and diligent. In addition to her legal experience, she is involved in several charitable organizations. The commission finds that the candidate possesses the legal ability, experience, integrity and judicial temperament to perform satisfactorily as a judge of the Superior Court and recommends her candidacy.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Daniel D. McCaffery
Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate is an experienced jurist known for his high degree of professionalism and good judicial temperament. He is engaging, sincere, intelligent and affable with an admirable work ethic. His legal career has taken several paths. He served as an assistant district attorney for five years and then was in private practice for 16 years. The candidate has served as a common pleas court judge since 2014. He has a sound knowledge of legal principles, with his opinions and legal writings being well-reasoned. He also has extensive community involvement, including volunteering as a coach for the past 20 years. 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. 

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Christylee L. Peck
Rating: Recommended

The candidate has practiced law since 2001, first serving as an associate in private practice with civil trial litigation and business law duties and then as an assistant district attorney in Lancaster County in the Child Abuse Unit. From 2005 until her election in 2011 to the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas, she served as the senior district attorney in Cumberland County specializing in the prosecution of sex crimes, child abuse and other major crimes. The candidate has acquired a broad array of experience as a result of her duties as a prosecuting attorney and seven years on the bench. Her legal opinions are considered thorough, logical and well-reasoned. She is recognized as a hard worker, articulate and accomplished, as well as thoughtful, approachable and fair in her interactions with litigants and attorneys. The commission believes the candidate’s experience as a lawyer and as a judge will enable her to ably fulfill the responsibilities of a Superior Court judge and therefore recommends her candidacy.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Ratings Paragraphs For Retention Candidates

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

Judge Anne E. Lazarus
Rating: Recommended for Retention

The candidate has served as a Superior Court judge for the past 10 years. Her impressive career also includes service on the trial court for a combined total of nearly 29 years on the bench. She has earned the reputation as an extremely capable and hardworking jurist. Her judicial temperament has been described as “perfect,” and her opinions are thoroughly researched and well written. The candidate was active in creating the First Judicial District’s Pro Bono Committee, out of which the mortgage foreclosure committee and the custody conciliation committee were created. In addition to her work on the Superior Court, the candidate teaches courses to both law students and lawyers throughout the commonwealth. She has earned the respect of both litigants and lawyers during her time on the bench, and the commission recommends her retention for the Superior Court.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Judith F. Olson
Rating: Recommended for Retention

Having served on Superior Court for the last 10 years, the candidate is regarded as a hardworking and extremely capable jurist. She has authored well-written opinions that are easily followed and understood, and which demonstrate appreciation of the effects legal decisions have on the lives of the parties involved. She is described as talented, bright, prepared and fair in her application of existing law to the cases before the court. The candidate has actively participated in community and charitable boards and is loyal to the missions and purposes of the institutions. She also speaks at bar association programs, giving practical advice to those in attendance. The candidate has earned high praise and respect for her service on the Superior Court and the commission recommends her retention.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

Judge P. Kevin Brobson
Rating: Recommended for Retention

The candidate has served on the Commonwealth Court since 2010. The candidate is recognized by members of the bar and bench as an excellent jurist who is even tempered, fair and knowledgeable. The candidate’s judicial opinions are well written, thorough and precise. He is currently the board chair of the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania. He exhibits his dedication to the profession through community service, including acting as the jurist-in-residence at Widener University Commonwealth Law School and providing pro bono legal service. The commission recommends the candidate’s retention because of his consistent judicial excellence, even-keeled temperament, and commitment to the bar, bench and community at large.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Patricia A. McCullough
Rating: Recommended for Retention

The candidate previously served on the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County and has served on the Commonwealth Court since 2010. Those who were interviewed concerning the candidate describe her as conscientious, hardworking, fair minded, open to new concepts and dedicated. The attorneys who come before her and her fellow judges consider her to be professional, well prepared and having a firm grasp of the facts and the law. The candidate was appointed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Appellate Court Procedural Rules Committee, which she currently chairs. She is active in the Pennsylvania and Allegheny County bar associations and is a course planner for continuing legal education courses. The candidate is also active in the community. She served on the United Way Strategic Planning Committee, the Pennsylvania Catholic Committee on Social Concerns and Immigrants Against Domestic Violence Task Force. The candidate’s character and integrity make her well suited for her position on Commonwealth Court. For all the reasons stated above, the commission believes the candidate should continue service on the Commonwealth Court and accordingly 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 of legal services; and serve the lawyer members of the state's largest organized bar association.

 

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