Judge Albert W. Sheppard Jr., 74, dies

Posted: September 06, 2011

Albert W. Sheppard Jr., 74, a Common Pleas Court judge who oversaw a program to resolve complex disputes between businesses, died Sunday, Sept. 4, the Philadelphia Bar Association announced.

Bar Association Chancellor Rudolph Garcia said in a statement Tuesday: "Judge Sheppard was a brilliant jurist who distinguished himself by his courteousness and respectfulness. He was very practical and worked hard to resolve disputes by agreement, but he made tough decisions when necessary."

Garcia added, "As one of the founders of the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court's Commerce Case Management Program, he was instrumental in its continuing success. His passing is a huge loss for all of us."

In a 1990 interview with The Inquirer, Judge Sheppard said that he decided to become a judge because "I didn't want to go for the jugular." He said he was better suited "to be a referee than a combatant."

He was elected to the bench in 1983.

He led a committee appointed by the state Supreme Court in 1989 to come up with ways to make the court system run better.

In 2000, Judge Sheppard and Judge John W. Herron began presiding over Commerce Court, which in 2005 was praised as "efficient, fair, and cost effective" in a Committee of Seventy report.

In an article about the report, Judge Sheppard noted his high workload and complained that he was "underpaid."

Later that year, Judge Sheppard entered into a political pay-raise controversy when he was the first judge to sue the legislature for repealing a substantial salary increase it had given itself and other state officials, including judges.

The state Supreme Court ruled that the pay raises for judges could not be repealed.

Contact staff writer Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or bmoran@phillynews.com.

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