The association conducts extensive investigations before issuing its ratings, but the reasons behind the ratings are not publicized. DeLeon, however, was suspended for three months without pay in 2009 for issuing a "stay-away" order on behalf of a social acquaintance.
The bar association also issued a "not-recommended" rating for Common Pleas Court candidates Jim Divergilis and Ted Viglante. The home and office of Traffic Court Judge Michael Sullivan, who is up for retention today, recently were raided by the FBI.
Shira Goodman, deputy director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, said a candidate's legal qualifications often take a back seat to other issues in judicial elections, which are "designed to reward political connections, success at fundraising and being good on the campaign trail - none of which are necessarily relevant to being a good judge."
Bar Chancellor Rudolph Garcia said that the association has long advocated for merit-based selection of appellate-court judges but that he supports reform at the trial-court level as well.
"Most voters don't appreciate the importance of this and don't really know anything about the candidates," Garcia said.
"Sometimes they'll walk into the voting booth and just pick first 10, or they'll look at a name and say, 'I'm Irish and that's an Irish name, so I'll put that guy in.' "