State and city judgeships are on the ballot

Posted: October 24, 2003

On Election Day, Pennsylvania voters will select one state Supreme Court justice and three Superior Court judges. Philadelphia voters also will elect 11 Common Pleas Court judges, a Municipal Court judge, and a Traffic Court judge.

Two Allegheny County judges are vying for a 10-year term on the state's highest court, a post that pays $139,585 annually. Democrat Max Baer, 55, sits on Common Pleas Court. Republican Joan Orie Melvin, 47, is a state Superior Court judge. Both are highly recommended by the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

The Democratic candidates for three Superior Court seats that will be filled on Nov. 4 are Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge John J. Driscoll, Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Seamus P. McCaffery, and Northampton County Common Pleas Court Judge Jack Panella.

The Republican Superior Court candidates are former Dauphin County Deputy District Attorney Grainger Bowman, Schuylkill County Common Pleas Court Judge Palmer Dolbin, and former Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Susan Gantman.

Bowman and Panella received "highly recommended" ratings from the Pennsylvania Bar Association. The remaining candidates were rated "recommended."

Superior Court judges serve for 10 years and are paid $135,213 annually.

In local judicial elections, nine of the 13 Philadelphia Common Pleas Court candidates are cross-endorsed by the Democratic and Republican Parties, and they are running for judge on both party ballots - virtually ensuring victory on Election Day.

They are: Brenda Frazier-Clemons; Ramy I. Djerassi; Holly J. Ford; Nina Wright Padilla; Paula A. Patrick; and Common Pleas Court Judges Lori A. Dumas; Joseph A. Dych; Leslie G. Fleisher; and Jeffrey P. Minehart.

Dumas, Dych, Fleisher and Minehart were previously appointed to the court.

All nine of the cross-endorsed candidates were recommended by the Philadelphia Bar Association except Dumas and Fleisher.

The bar does not reveal specific reasons for not recommending candidates. Its review committee considers candidates' legal ability, trial experience, judicial temperament, character and professional judgment.

The Democratic candidates who did not receive cross endorsements for Common Pleas Court are Joel S. Johnson and Doris A. Pechkurow. Pechkurow was recommended by the bar association; Johnson was not.

Republican candidates who did not receive cross endorsements for Common Pleas Court are Thomas M. Nocella and previously appointed Judge Bradley K. Moss. Both were recommended by the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Common Pleas Court judges are elected to 10-year terms and are paid $121,225 annually.

Gerard A. Kosinski is cross-endorsed by both parties and is the lone candidate for the city's Municipal Court vacancy. Municipal Court judges are elected to six-year terms and earn $118,021 annually.

Democrat Earlene Green Clark and Republican Michael McAleer are competing for one seat on Philadelphia's Traffic Court. Traffic Court judges are elected to four-year terms and are paid $63,529 annually.

In addition, 25 Philadelphia judges are seeking to keep their seats in Common Pleas, Municipal and Traffic Courts. Voters may vote yes or no for retention.

The Philadelphia Bar Association is recommending that four sitting judges not be retained.

They are: Common Pleas Court Judges Genece E. Brinkley, Tama Myers Clark, and Thomas D. Watkins, and Municipal Court Judge Gwendolyn A. Conway.

Brinkley, Clark and Watkins all received low ratings in a poll of city lawyers, who were asked to weigh the judges' integrity, legal ability, efficiency, judicial temperament and performance.

Conway received adequate poll ratings but was embarrassed by scandal earlier this year when her son and her secretary were charged with forging a criminal bench warrant in Conway's chambers. Conway has not been charged.

The Common Pleas Court judges recommended to be retained are Jacqueline F. Allen, Steven R. Geroff, D. Webster Keogh, William J. Manfredi, President Judge Frederica A. Massiah-Jackson, Rayford A. Means, Sandra M. Moss, Joseph D. O'Keefe, Albert W. Sheppard Jr., Carolyn Engel Temin, and Allan L. Tereshko.

The Municipal Court judges recommended to be retained are Robert S. Blasi, Frank T. Brady, Barbara S. Gilbert, Lydia Y. Kirkland, Marsha H. Neifield, and Craig M. Washington.

Traffic Court judges seeking retention are: Bernice Ann DeAngelis, Joseph A. Howlett, Francis E. Kelly, and Fortunato N. Perri Sr. The Philadelphia Bar Association does not make Traffic Court recommendations.

Statewide, state Supreme Court Justice and former Philadelphia District Attorney Ronald D. Castille is seeking retention, as are Superior Court Judge Joseph A. Del Sole of Pittsburgh and Commonwealth Court Judge James Gardner Colins of Philadelphia. All were recommended by the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

Contact staff writer Jacqueline Soteropoulos at 215-854-4497 or jsoteropoulos@phillynews.com.

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