Obama nominates 4 to fill U.S. District Court judgeships

Mark A.Kearney
Mark A.Kearney
Posted: June 15, 2014

A former Pennsylvania attorney general, an ex-lawyer for the Philadelphia School District, and the president of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute all made the list Friday as President Obama nominated four candidates for spots on the federal bench.

If confirmed, the nominees, none of whom has judicial experience, will fill four of the five current vacancies in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which covers the Philadelphia region.

"I am honored to put forward these highly qualified candidates," the president said in a statement. "They will be distinguished public servants and valuable additions to the United States District Courts."

The list includes Philadelphia-area lawyers Wendy Beetlestone, Mark A. Kearney, and Gerald Pappert, who was the state's attorney general from 2003 to 2005.

Obama also nominated corporate lawyer and former Bethlehem City Councilman Joseph J. Leeson Jr., 59, to preside over a courtroom in Allentown.

Beetlestone, 53, served as the Philadelphia School District's general counsel from 2002 to 2005. Since then, she has led the education law practice at the Center City law firm Hangley, Aronchick, Segal, Pudlin & Schiller. Nigerian-born and raised in the United Kingdom, Beetlestone earned her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1993.

She has made frequent contributions to Democratic candidates for federal office, including nearly $20,000 to Obama's campaigns and associated PACs, and more than $6,000 to U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. since 2006.

Kearney, 51, is a shareholder at the Blue Bell law firm Elliott Greenleaf & Siedzikowski and was awarded a law degree in 1987 by Villanova University. He was elected president of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute this year.

He is also a frequent Democratic contributor, including $1,100 in donations to Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and nearly $5,000 to Casey since 2010.

Pappert, 51, was appointed attorney general in 2003 after his boss, Mike Fisher, was himself appointed to the federal judiciary by President George W. Bush. Pappert left office in 2005, after the election of Tom Corbett as attorney general.

Since then, Pappert has held jobs at the pharmaceutical firm Cephalon and the Center City law firm Ballard Spahr. He is currently a partner at Cozen O'Connor and serves as chairman of the state's Banking and Securities Commission.

A Republican, Pappert has given $3,600 to U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey since 2010 and nearly $10,000 to U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan. He earned his law degree in 1988 from the University of Notre Dame.

Obama's nominations Friday came as part of an ongoing White House effort to fill a record number of vacancies in federal courts across the country.

Up until recently, Pennsylvania, which now has only five district court spots without nominees, was second only to Texas in the number of judicial vacancies, said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who tracks the federal judiciary.

Since Obama took office, the Senate has confirmed 10 of his nominees to Pennsylvania posts.

Toomey and Casey, who selected each of the lawyers the president nominated Friday, said they continue to search for qualified candidates to fill the remaining vacancies.

"These nominees possess a wealth of legal experience based on their work in both the public and private sectors," Toomey said in a statement Friday. "I am confident they will excel as federal judges."


jroebuck@phillynews.com

215-925-2649 @jeremyrroebuck

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