2009-03-19 / Local & State

Candidates Vie For Pa. Appellate Court Seats


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Twenty-four candidates filed papers to run for six open seats on Pennsylvania's appellate courts, according to a list posted Wednesday on the Department of State Web site.

At stake in this year's statewide election are one seat on the state Supreme Court, three on Superior Court and two on Commonwealth Court. Tuesday was the deadline for party candidates to file their nominating petitions.

Most of the candidates will compete for the party nominations in the May 19 primary, but some are unopposed and poised to automatically become the nominees.

In the latter category is Superior Court Judge Jack Panella of Northampton County, whose only opponent for the Democratic nomination for Supreme Court - Philadelphia Judge Teresa Sarmina - ended her campaign earlier this week.

Also unopposed in the primary are all three Republican candidates for Superior Court - Allegheny County Judge Judith Olson, Pittsburgh lawyer Templeton Smith Jr. and Tioga County lawyer Sallie Updyke Mundy.

Those four were among 12 candidates endorsed by the Democratic and Republican state committees earlier this year.

Democrats also endorsed Philadelphia judges Anne E. Lazarus and John Milton Younge and Allegheny County Judge Robert J. Colville for Superior Court. They endorsed Philadelphia Judge Jimmy Lynn and Pittsburgh lawyer Daniel K. Bricmont for Commonwealth Court in what is shaping up as a sevenway primary race.

Republicans tapped Superior Court Judge Joan Orie Melvin for elevation to the Supreme Court. The GOP also formally supports Commonwealth Court candidates Alfonso Frioni Jr., a commissioner on the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Appeals Board from Pittsburgh, and Kevin Brobson, a Harrisburg lawyer.

Melvin faces a hotly contested primary featuring three judges who competed against her for the party's endorsement last month. They include fellow Superior Court judges Cheryl Allen and Jacqueline Shogan - who, like Melvin, are both from southwestern Pennsylvania - and Philadelphia Judge Paul Panepinto.

The endorsed GOP candidates for Commonwealth Court are opposed by Pittsburgh lawyer Patricia A. McCullough for the party's nomination.

On the Democratic side, three unendorsed candidates also are vying for nomination to the Superior Court: Philadelphia Judge Paula A. Patrick, Allegheny County prosecutor Kevin F. Mc- Carthy and Lackawanna County Judge Tom Munley.

The unendorsed Democratic candidates for Commonwealth Court are Monroeville lawyer Michelle H. Lally, Philadelphia lawyer Stephen G. Pollock and Pittsburgh lawyers Linda S. Judson, Michael Sherman and Barbara Jo Ernsberger.

All but three of the candidates have been investigated, interviewed and rated by the state bar's Judicial Evaluation Commission - an 18-member panel of lawyers and nonlawyers.

The panel plans to interview the last three candidates - Munley, Lally and Pollock - later this month, its chairman, Pittsburgh lawyer Chris Gillotti, said Wednesday.

All but one of the candidates reviewed so far have received ratings of "recommended" or "highly recommended."

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