Monday, May 14, 2007

Primary Election Selects Justice & Judge Candidates

In the Municipal Primary Election to be held in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, May 15, 2007, registered party voters will be selecting candidates for two Justice vacancies on the PA Supreme Court, and for two Judge vacancies on the PA Superior Court.

Who is running for these appellate court positions? How much do you know about them? How will you vote?

Yesterday morning, while standing at a Dunkin' Donuts counter selecting good ones for a boxed dozen, I noticed next to me an acquaintance --
Bruce Bratton. He was ordering a personalized "Mother's Day" cake for his wife, in honor of the day & their family. He lives fairly nearby, serves as a Dauphin County Judge, and is seeking a seat on the PA Superior Court on the Republican ballot. I know personally that he would be a good Judge on the Superior Court.

In February, at a Decedents Estates Laws Advisory Committee meeting in Harrisburg, I sat next to
Anne Lazarus. She lives in Philadelphia, serves as a Philadelphia County Judge, and is also seeking a seat on the PA Superior Court, but on the Democratic ballot. I know personally that she would be a good Judge on the Superior Court.

By past contact, I know that these two candidates are grounded, trustworthy, experienced, intelligent, & committed.

Yet I would vote for them for a reason that goes beyond my personal knowledge about them.

I would vote for them because of their past involvement with
elder, estate & fiduciary law matters.

The Superior Court is an important institution in the growth of these laws.
The application of laws affecting elders, asset administrations, & ongoing trust relationships must be fair, protective, & practical. Since the Superior Court receives appeals from OC Division trial court rulings, I look for persons already experienced in these matters for service on that court.

I know that both of these candidates have real-world experience, legal knowledge, and a long-term commitment in resolving the kinds of issues litigated in the Orphans' Court Division.
Before serving as a judge, Bruce Bratton practiced law in these areas for 25 years. While on the Orphans' Court Division bench, Anne Lazarus has been immersed in these matters.

Other candidates may have such a background, too; but I don't know them. So, like others, I must consult available, reliable resources to learn more about them.

On April 13, 2007, the
League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania ("a nonpartisan grassroots civics organization"), issued its "Voters Guide" (PDF, 7 pages) listing information about statewide candidates for both Supreme and Superior Court seats. That is a good starting point.

On February 20, 2007, the
Pennsylvania Bar Association announced publicly, through a news release entitled "PBA Judicial Evaluation -- Commission Releases 2007 Judicial Ratings", the results of its candidate ratings:

The Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission (PBA JEC) has completed several rounds of ratings for potential judicial candidates seeking election to the state's appellate courts in November.

Each candidate requesting an evaluation by the
PBA JEC is eligible to receive a rating of "Highly Recommended," "Recommended" or "Not Recommended." * * *

PBA JEC provides information to help voters choose candidates best suited to serve as fair, impartial and knowledgeable judges," said Pittsburgh lawyer Chris F. Gillotti, chair of the PBA JEC.

"By its own definitions, the
PBA JEC only recommends potential candidates with the legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament to provide satisfactory or outstanding performance as judges on our appellate benches." * * *
That news release explains the composition of the PBA JEC, its judicial evaluation process, the factors considered (including responses to a judicial questionnaire), and the resulting nonpartisan rating for each candidate. See the ratings, with reasons & links, here.

Various newspapers around the Commonwealth have published their own candidate summaries or election guides, such as the Associated Press article posted by the
Pittsburgh Herald-Tribune on April 16, 2007, entitled "Pa. judicial candidates bios". Still other newspapers have made editorial comments or press endorsements regarding candidates.

Consult sources you trust, so that, when you vote, you can choose wisely.

"Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely."
-- Karen Kaiser Clark
Educator & author of three books on growing through change

* * *
Update: 05/16/07:

The Republican & Democratic nominees for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court are determined.

"Statewide court races: Endorsed Supreme Court candidates win", dated Wednesday, May 16, 2007, by Dennis B. Roddy, published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [Links added by NEH]:
The endorsed candidates for the state's high court handily won their parties' nominations in yesterday's primary election -- a low-octane contest that drew little voter interest statewide. Democrats Seamus McCaffery, of Philadelphia, and Debra Todd, of Butler County, both members of the Superior Court, took early leads in their party's primary for two nominations to Pennsylvania Supreme Court. * * *

On the Republican side of the ballot, Maureen Lally-Green, a Superior Court judge from Butler County and Michael Krancer, a former chairman and chief judge of the state's Environmental Hearing Board, took early leads in their party's primary and were declared winners less than three hours after the polls closed. * * *

Update: 05/17/07:

After some close counting, the Republican & Democratic nominees for Pennsylvania Superior Court are also determined.

"Allegheny, Dauphin judges win GOP Superior Court races", dated Wednesday, May 16, 2007, published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [Links added by NEH]:

Allegheny County Judge Cheryl Allen and Dauphin County Judge Bruce Bratton clinched the Republican nominations for two open seats on the state Superior Court, but one of the Democratic nominations remained too close to call today.

Judge Allen, who was not endorsed by the Republican State Committee, outpolled the two endorsed candidates with 35 percent of the vote, according to returns from 99 percent of the state's precincts.

"When I entered this race, I entered it because I had faith enough to believe that I could win," Judge Allen said this afternoon. "I really didn't think I'd win as big as I did."

Judge Bratton, who had 33 percent of the vote, narrowly beat Westmoreland County lawyer Jacqueline Shogan, with 32 percent, for the other nomination. Ms. Shogan's campaign conceded the race this afternoon. * * *

See also: "Folino, Allen, Bratton gain state court nods", dated May 17, 2007, by Peter Jackson, also published in that newspaper [Links added by NEH]:

Allegheny County Judge Cheryl Allen and Dauphin County Judge Bruce Bratton clinched the Republican nominations for two open seats on the state Superior Court, while Allegheny County Judge Ron Folino joined Christine Donohue on the Democratic ticket.

The four will compete in the Nov. 6 general election, and the top two vote-getters will win 10-year terms on the bench.

Judge Bratton was the only one of the four nominees who had his party's endorsement heading into the primary.

For statistical results of the May 15, 2007 Pennsylvania Primary Election, see: "Tuesday Primary Election Results Thread", posted by GrassrootsPA.

Update: 11/06/07:

The Municipal Election occurs today, Tuesday, November 6, 2007. I noted the judicial candidates and sources for determining their qualifications in a posting, "
PA Bar Urges Voting on Tues Nov 6th" (11/06/07).