Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission Releases One Additional Appellate Court Candidate Rating, Recaps Its Ratings of All Other Candidates

HARRISBURG (May 11, 2021) — The Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission (PBA JEC) today released its rating for a candidate seeking a seat on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Judge Patricia McCullough has received a “Not Recommended” rating. A descriptive paragraph about the rating can be found below.

In the 2021 election, voters will be filling one seat on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, one seat on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and two seats on the Commonwealth Court.

This list captures all the PBA JEC ratings for candidates on the primary election ballot: 

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Highly Recommended

Judge P. Kevin Brobson (Dauphin County)

Judge Maria C. McLaughlin (Philadelphia County)

Judge Paula A. Patrick (Philadelphia County)

Not Recommended

Judge Patricia A. McCullough (Dauphin County)

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

Recommended

Jill L. Beck (Allegheny County)

Judge Timika R. Lane (Philadelphia County)

Bryan S. Neft (Allegheny County)

Megan Sullivan (Chester County)

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

Highly Recommended

Judge David L. Spurgeon (Allegheny County)

Recommended

Judge J. Andrew Crompton (Cumberland County)

Judge Lori A. Dumas (Philadelphia County)

Amanda Green-Hawkins (Allegheny County)

Judge Sierra Thomas Street (Philadelphia County)

Not Recommended

Stacy Sorokes Wallace (McKean County)

“Our commission’s goal is to provide information to assist voters in choosing candidates best suited to serve as fair, impartial and knowledgeable jurists on Pennsylvania’s highest courts,” said Kimberly Moses of Allegheny County, chair of the PBA JEC. “Our commission only recommends candidates it finds to have the legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament needed to provide satisfactory or outstanding levels of performance on the appellate courts’ 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.

Once the investigative panel’s report was reviewed, the commission conducted the second phase of the evaluation process. The commission interviewed each candidate, discussed his or her qualifications and reached consensus on each candidate’s rating.

All of the PBA JEC-rated potential candidates have signed the Judicial Conduct Pledge that states they and their campaigns will observe standards of conduct consistent with the integrity, impartiality and independence of the judiciary, and that they will observe those standards in their campaign advertising.

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

Serving with Moses in the leadership of the PBA JEC is Vice Chair Charles Eppolito III of Philadelphia.

Additional lawyer members are Joseph D. Burke of Luzerne County, Jennifer S. Coatsworth of Philadelphia, Lara J. Endler of Luzerne County, Richard A. Estacio of Berks County, Stephanie F. Latimore of Dauphin County, Brian J. Lindsay of Crawford County, Julie K. Miller of Allegheny County, Denise C. Pekelnicky of Erie County and Joel C. Seelye of Blair County.

Non-lawyer members are Victoria A. Connor of York County, Mary A. Coploff of Clinton County, Gregory Cowhey of Philadelphia County, Tim Evans of Luzerne County, Harold E. Flack of Luzerne County and Robert N. Thomas of Erie 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 P. Kevin Brobson

Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate was elected to the Commonwealth Court in 2009 and was retained in 2019 for a second 10-year term. Prior to being elected to the bench, he worked at a law firm for 14 years with a practice including commercial litigation, as well as appellate and administrative law. Since joining the court, the candidate has authored opinions exhibiting his breadth of experience and knowledge of the law. The candidate has distinguished himself by serving as a member and chair of the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania. He has earned the respect and confidence of his peers on both the Commonwealth and Pennsylvania Supreme courts as evidenced by being elected as president judge of the Commonwealth Court despite not having the most seniority. He also obtained special appointments to the Supreme Court for pending cases and to preside over an expedited bench trial of a case involving a Pennsylvania constitutional matter. The candidate has engaged in a wide range of community service. His commitment to the citizens of Pennsylvania, combined with the high degree of respect and trust of his colleagues and his demonstrated excellence and integrity in his jurisprudence from the bench, leads the commission to highly recommend the candidate as a justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. 

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Patricia A. McCullough

Rating: Not Recommended

The candidate is serving her second, 10-year term as a judge on the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania where she has served since 2010. The candidate has served on the Supreme Court’s Appellate Courts Rules Committee since 2016 and is currently the chair. Lawyers who appear before the candidate describe her as hard working, as having good judicial temperament and as intelligent. The candidate serves her community and is enthusiastic about her work with the Foundation of Hope Chaplain Ministry and her involvement with Women Without Walls. It is for these reasons that the then commission recommended her retention to the Commonwealth Court in 2019. Notwithstanding, during this election cycle, the current commission became aware of the candidate’s alleged conduct at a previous employment. In an interview specific to this issue, questions about the matter were not answered to the satisfaction of the commission. Therefore, the commission is unable to recommend her candidacy for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Maria C. McLaughlin

Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate was elected to the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in 2011, serving in its Family Court until being elected to the Superior Court in 2017. During her time on the Superior Court, she coordinated and developed policies enabling the court to hold arguments during the pandemic. This task required her to liaise with numerous members of the bench and bar from each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Prior to her election to the bench, the candidate worked for 19 years in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office where she was appointed chief of the Child Support Enforcement Unit. She managed 18 attorneys and was also appointed director of the Family Justice Center Initiative. In addition, she developed an initiative setting appointments of counsel for child support enforcement cases and a jobs program matching unemployed parents with employers. She participates actively with local and statewide bar associations. She has received awards and recognitions from community, educational and governmental organizations. The candidate is described by other judges and lawyers as hard working, intelligent, patient, caring, approachable, an excellent listener and a superb mentor. Lawyers who appeared before the candidate recount her superior knowledge and practical application of the law. For these reasons, the commission highly recommends her candidacy for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Paula A. Patrick

Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate currently serves on the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia County, having been elected in 2003 and retained in 2013. The candidate’s trial court experience is extensive and includes a variety of substantive areas of law, and she oversees appeals from the Philadelphia Municipal Court. Prior to her initial election, the candidate was a sole practitioner with a wide variety of casework provided to a diverse client base. She volunteers in her community, serving as a mentor to at-risk youth and to women in recovery. She has previous legal teaching experience and is a presenter/lecturer for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Pennsylvania Bar Association and the National Business Institute Judicial Forum. The candidate is an experienced jurist who is highly regarded by colleagues and attorneys who have appeared before her. She is engaging, energetic, intelligent and passionate about the profession. Her background and experience indicate she has a broad perspective and wide knowledge of the law. Her opinions and legal writings are fair, comprehensive and well-reasoned. The commission believes that the candidate has met the rigorous standards set forth and possesses the highest combination of legal ability, experience, integrity as well as excellent judicial temperament. The commission is confident that the candidate would serve with distinction as a Supreme Court justice and highly recommends her candidacy.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Jill L. Beck

Rating: Recommended

After passing the Pennsylvania bar, the candidate joined KidsVoice Inc., where her practice was dedicated to matters related to dependent children. Following her work with the nonprofit, the candidate obtained clerkships, first with the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and then with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. These clerkships provided the candidate with 10 years of appellate court experience drafting opinions related to civil, criminal, family and juvenile law and orphan’s court matters. From 2019 to 2020, the candidate worked at a large law firm with a primary practice of civil litigation. The candidate is active in both the Pennsylvania Bar Association and her county bar association, and she is highly regarded by members of the bench and bar. She is intelligent, focused and displays the judicial temperament of patience, courtesy, impartiality and even temper. For these reasons, the commission recommends her candidacy as judge for the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Timika R. Lane

Rating: Recommended

The candidate was elected to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in 2013 presiding over criminal matters. Prior to her tenure on the court, she was in private practice with the majority of her practice related to family law. She also previously worked in the Public Defender’s Office. The candidate was appointed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to co-chair a County Adult Probation Committee. She demonstrates her commitment to the legal profession through the instruction of continuing legal education courses and other educational activities. The candidate’s writing is well-reasoned, clear and concise. She demonstrates a commitment to public service and has extensive community involvement. For these reasons, the commission recommends her candidacy to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Bryan S. Neft

Rating: Recommended

Following law school graduation, the candidate was briefly employed in private practice before taking a four-year position as a law clerk to a Superior Court judge. He returned to private practice engaging in general practice that evolved into commercial litigation with a focus on complex insurance defense. The candidate’s writing is skillful and displays a formidable knowledge of trial-related issues. He is hard working, has a reputation for excellent character and integrity, and possesses a calm temperament. The candidate has contributed to the legal profession by teaching legal education classes and serving in leadership capacities for various bar associations. The candidate is also actively involved with charitable organizations in his community. He exhibits a commitment to equal justice for all and has demonstrated sound judgment in his professional life. Based on his respect of his peers, integrity, legal knowledge and ability, work ethic, temperament and contributions to the legal community, the commission recommends the candidate for election to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. 

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Megan Sullivan

Rating: Recommended

The candidate’s legal experience includes 19 years devoted to criminal and civil litigation practice. From 2002 through 2008, the candidate served as an assistant district attorney in Chester County and, thereafter, served for nearly four years as a supervisory district attorney in that office. Her responsibilities ranged from handling and overseeing all aspects of pre-trial criminal practice to trying cases as a line prosecutor. Before serving most recently as a Pennsylvania deputy attorney general with the Civil and Criminal Litigation Divisions of that office, the candidate served for three years as general legal counsel to West Chester University advising and representing the university on a variety of topics, including regulatory compliance, contract and arbitration matters. The candidate serves her community by supporting organizations that serve women and persons experiencing food and shelter insecurities. The candidate provided well-written samples of her work, and she is very well regarded by her peers being described as well-prepared, open and honest, and collegial. For these reasons, the commission recommends her candidacy for the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Judge J. Andrew Crompton

Rating: Recommended

Before being appointed to the Commonwealth Court, the candidate served as chief of staff and counsel for Sen. Joseph Scarnati. In 2019, he was nominated and subsequently confirmed to fill a two-year vacancy on the Commonwealth Court. The candidate has significant experience in statutory construction and interpretation due to his extensive legislative background. He has been involved in many community-oriented organizations. Additionally, he has decades of experience in administration of employees and has successfully structured and administered his current chambers. The candidate’s writings are thorough and well-structured. He presented himself to the commission as intelligent, well-spoken and sincere. Based on his current judicial experience and his previous role as senior counsel, combined with his work ethic and reputation among judicial colleagues, the commission recommends the candidate to serve on the Commonwealth Court.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Lori A. Dumas

Rating: Recommended

The candidate has been a judge in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas since 2002 where she has presided over family, criminal and civil division cases. Prior to becoming a judge, the candidate was a general practitioner who litigated various types of cases with the majority being criminal- and family law-related matters. The candidate was a contributing author of the 2018 Pennsylvania Juvenile Delinquency Benchbook and is currently co-authoring a digital resource in partnership with the American Medical Association. The candidate has been repeatedly recognized for her excellent work and service to the community, and she has received numerous awards, recognitions and distinctions from a wide array of community, governmental and legal organizations. The candidate is well respected among her peers, being described as possessing intellectual curiosity and as being prepared for her judicial duties. Attorneys who appeared before the candidate describe her as fair with good judicial temperament. For these reasons, the commission recommends her candidacy for the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Amanda Green-Hawkins

Rating: Recommended

The candidate has been an attorney with the United Steelworkers since September 2002 in a variety of roles, the most recent being assistant general counsel and director of civil and human rights. In these roles, she is one of more than 2,000 union lawyers across the country who provide legal counsel and advice for a diverse set of issues, including civil liberties. The candidate has an extensive administrative law background having appeared before a variety of federal and state agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. The candidate has an impressive record of service to her local community, supporting causes associated with voter rights and women’s issues. She is highly regarded by her peers, who describe her as honest, hard-working, impartial and even-tempered. While the candidate’s current position does not afford her the opportunity to author many appellate briefs, the commission found her writing samples to be clear and concise. The commission believes that the candidate will perform well as a judge on the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania and recommends her candidacy.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge David L. Spurgeon

Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate began his career at a law firm where his practice was primarily personal injury. In 2009, he joined the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office. After eight years of prosecuting domestic violence cases, he was promoted to deputy district attorney where, in addition to his prosecutorial responsibilities, he was also responsible for supervising attorneys assigned to the domestic violence, mental health and municipal courts. While at the District Attorney’s Office, the candidate became a certified police instructor for the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County Police Academies and was integral in developing the Veterans Court and Repeat Batterers accountability dockets. In 2016, he was appointed to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas and was subsequently re-elected to the bench. He is assigned to the family division but also presides over certain orphans’ and civil division cases. The candidate has strong ties to his community and holds leadership roles in various nonprofit organizations, participates in a local program for teens in underserved communities, and is an adjunct professor at Duquesne University School of Law. The candidate exhibits the legal ability sufficient to have earned the respect of lawyers and members of the bench and, during his interview with the commission, he displayed confidence, integrity and excellent judicial temperament. For these reasons, the commission highly recommends his candidacy for the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. 

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Sierra Thomas Street

Rating: Recommended

The candidate has been a judge in the Criminal Division of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas for seven years. In January 2021, she was transferred to the Civil Division. The candidate is active in her community, including holding leadership roles in a nonprofit organization dedicated to the wellness of the elderly. The candidate is dedicated to the pursuit of justice, which is evidenced by a long history of participation and recognition in various bench, bar and civic organizations. The candidate is highly regarded by members of the bar, as well as her judicial peers. She has been described by her peers as being intelligent, organized, fair, passionate and having the right temperament to serve as judge on the Commonwealth Court. It is for these reasons that the commission recommends her candidacy as a judge for the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Stacy Sorokes Wallace

Rating: Not Recommended

The candidate was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 2004 and served as a judicial law clerk with the Court of Common Pleas for McKean County for three years and the Superior Court of Pennsylvania for three years. Since that time, the candidate has engaged in the private practice of law and as a trust officer for a bank and trust company in northwestern Pennsylvania. In her private practice, the candidate provides legal representation across various areas of the law, including municipal law, estate planning and trust administration. The candidate has appeared before the bench in several civil trials and she currently serves as the president of the McKean County Bar Association. The candidate serves her community in a variety of volunteer roles and is held in high regard. This background notwithstanding, the commission finds the candidate lacks the depth and breadth of experience and preparation necessary to take on the commanding role of judge on the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania and, as a result, does not recommend her candidacy at this time.

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.

Editor’s note: Additional information about the PBA JEC can be found on the PBA website, www.pabar.org, and the association’s voter information website, www.pavotesmart.org.


 

 

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