Two Phila. judges among candidates rated 'not recommended' by bar

Posted: October 19, 2013

Two Municipal Court judges and two Democratic candidates for the Philadelphia bench were rated "not recommended" Thursday after evaluations by a 30-member panel of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

All four are on the citywide ballot for the Nov. 5 general election, as are 25 judges and judicial candidates who won "recommended" ratings from the panel. In low-turnout judicial elections, candidates who make it onto the fall ballot usually win election even with a "not recommended" rating.

The two Municipal Court judges who failed to win the panel's recommendation were Jacquelyn M. Frazier-Lyde, daughter of the late boxing champion Joe Frazier, and Joseph J. O'Neill. They are among the judges seeking "yes" votes for retention to new 10-year terms on the bench. Judges seek retention on a nonpartisan basis.

Neither Frazier-Lyde nor O'Neill returned calls to their judicial offices seeking comment on the ratings.

The two Democratic candidates receiving negative evaluations were Common Pleas Court candidate Sierra Thomas Street, former daughter-in-law of former Mayor John F. Street, and Municipal Court candidate Henry Lewandowski, a staff lawyer with the politically influential Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Sierra Street could not be reached for comment. Lewandowski, whose campaign has received $60,000 from Local 98's political action committee, did not respond to a message left with the union.

The bar association also gave its "not recommended" rating to a Libertarian Party candidate for Common Pleas Court, identified on the ballot as Stephen Miller Miller.

In keeping with their procedural guidelines, the association did not identify specific shortcomings in the background or performance of the judges and candidates it decided not to recommend.

Teresa Ficken Sachs, the lawyer who chairs the association's Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention, said the decisions were based on votes by the 30-member panel, a majority plus one of those voting, following the submission of questionnaires by the candidates and further investigation by reviewing teams drawn from a 120-member "investigation division."

Those voting against recommending a candidate were required to identify at least one of 10 specified evaluation standards in which they believed the candidate was deficient.

The 10 standards include legal ability, experience ensuring knowledge of rules of evidence and courtroom procedures, character and integrity, financial responsibility, and judicial temperament.

O'Neill and Frazier-Lyde received low marks in an anonymous judicial-evaluation questionnaire made available to all Philadelphia lawyers this year. Those results were also made public Thursday.

Of 109 lawyers who said they had appeared before Frazier-Lyde in the last five years, only 60 responded positively when asked, "In your opinion, with respect to this judge's judicial performance, is he/she qualified?"

Of 98 who said they had appeared before O'Neill in the last five years, only 55 said they believed him to be qualified.

A complete list of the association's evaluations of all 29 judicial candidates on the Nov. 5 ballot is available at www.philadelphiabar.org


warnerb@phillynews.com

215-854-5885

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