Need Help With the Judicial Elections?

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There will be 15 judges elected to Philadelphia’s Municipal Court and Court of Common Pleas tomorrow, and chances are you haven’t heard of any of the candidates. Same goes for the primary candidates vying for state court vacancies — including an unprecedented three (out of seven) seats open on the Supreme Court. Don’t feel too bad about it. Even if you were inclined to study up, there’s not a lot of information available to research.

In depth profiles of the mayoral candidates are common. Articles on contenders for Common Pleas Court? Exceedingly rare. Most articles about judicial elections in Philadelphia focus on the unsavory, backroom dealings required for judges to get endorsed by the Democratic City Committee (the committee’s base fare is $35,000, and a lot of ward leaders expect a little something extra).

So take those City Committee endorsements for what their worth. Plenty of party-endorsed candidates are “not recommended” in the eyes of the Philadelphia Bar Association, such as three of the judicial candidates with prime positions on the ballot for filling a vacancy on the Municipal Court or Court of Common Pleas.

The Bar Association’s recommendations, listed below, represent probably the most rigorous vetting of judicial candidates. There’s not a whole lot else to go on. The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania put together a solid guide to the statewide judicial candidates, but it’s not comprehensive, leaving out the local courts. There are a number of political organizations, unions and smaller news outlets that have made endorsements for these races, including: the Philadelphia Gay News, the Philadelphia Tribune, Progressive Philly Rising, Liberty City, and AFL-CIO. If you want to see more endorsements, check out the list assembled by Democratic operative Micah Mahjoubian here. It looks pretty comprehensive.

You might be wondering: What about the news media endorsements? Big publications are taking a pass on judicial endorsements. Nothing from the Inquirer, the Daily News, or — it must be said — Philadelphia magazine. The Daily News explained that it “does not have the capacity to endorse in judicial elections.” Indeed, vetting dozens of candidates is a big job for depleted newsrooms. Trouble is, it’s a bigger job for voters.

And so, without much reporting or rigorous vetting go on, a lot of voters will pick judges at random. Selecting the first few names they see. Or the candidate with a last name that sounds a little familiar.

It’s a crapshoot. And it’s a shame. Because judges wield a ton of influence — and they rarely get voted out. Judges serve 6-year (Municipal Court) or 10-year (State Supreme, Common Pleas) terms and then face a simple “yes/no” retention question from the public at that time (with rare exceptions, retention elections are automatic wins for incumbent judges).

As much as Citified would like to offer a better option, we don’t pretend to be experts on the judicial elections either. So, below we’ve included the Philadelphia Bar Associations recommendations — which, if nothing else, will give you some sort of informed guide to print out and carry with you to the ballots.

Philadelphia Bar Association Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention
Ratings for 2015 Primary Candidates

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Highly Recommended:

  • Anne E. Lazarus

Recommended:

  • Kevin M. Dougherty

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

Recommended:

  • Alice Beck Dubow

Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas

Highly Recommended:

  • Abbe Fletman
  • Chris Mallios
  • Kai Scott

Recommended:

  • Wayne M. D. Bennett
  • James F. Berardinelli
  • Marissa Brumbach
  • Lucretia Clemons
  • Michael Fanning
  • Vince Giusini
  • Leon Goodman
  • Daine Grey, Jr.
  • Joshua Hill
  • Leon A. King, II
  • Anthony Kyriakakis
  • Jodi Lobel
  • Thomas Martin
  • Chris McCabe
  • Vincent N. Melchiorre
  • Brian T. Ortelere
  • Rainy Papademetriou
  • Mia Roberts Perez
  • Ken Powell
  • Stephanie M. Sawyer
  • Jennifer Schultz
  • Stella Tsai
  • Betsy Wahl
  • Deborah Watson-Stokes

Not Recommended:

  • Franklin A. Bennett, III
  • Tangie M. Boston
  • Starr Marshall Cash
  • William J. Ciancaglini
  • Scott DiClaudio
  • Frances Fattah
  • Vincent Furlong
  • Shanese Johnson
  • Edward William Louden, Jr.
  • Rania Major
  • Jon Marshall
  • Tracy B. Roman
  • Lynne M. Summers
  • Sherman Toppin
  • Sandjai Weaver
  • Lyris Younge

Philadelphia Municipal Court

Recommended:

  • Matthew Perks
  • Joffie C. Pittman
  • Daniel R. Sulman

Not Recommended:

  • Franklin A. Bennett, III
  • Christian DiCicco
  • Christine Hope
  • Sharon Williams Losier
  • Gary S. Silver