The question-and-answer format gave candidates approximately 30 seconds to respond.
(Harrisburg) – Eight candidates for four Pennsylvania State Court of Appeals seats underwent a whirlwind question hour in an online campaign forum Monday, but the verdict on their performance will have to wait for voters on November 2.
Judicial conduct rules even barred candidates from being questioned on specific cases or controversies in a state where last year’s presidential election and sharp partisan divisions over the pandemic have repeatedly landed in the courts of the state.
But they had a lot to say about their own qualifications and backgrounds, each arguing that they would be in the best position to sit in supreme, superior or Commonwealth courts.
“My experience motivates me every day, and my deep, deep, deep belief in the fair and impartial administration of justice,” said Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson, Republican Supreme Court candidate.
Her opponent, Democratic Superior Court Judge Maria McLaughlin, said she is “a judge who really wears my black dress for all Pennsylvanians.”
The question-and-answer format gave candidates approximately 30 seconds to respond. The deadline was squarely enforced by moderator Maureen McBride, head of the appeals division at her prominent law firm outside of Philadelphia.
The contestants did not directly interact with each other and there were no fireworks or major blunders. On the contrary, they all seemed determined to come across as affordable but serious. Several pointed to the origins of the working class. Questions about their own charitable activities seemed to animate them the most.
Republican Megan Sullivan, former Chester County District Attorney and Superior Court candidate, described the Intermediate Court of Appeals as “the people who watch the instant replay,” making close calls after county-level trials involving private parties.
His opponent, Democratic Common Plea Judge Timika Lane of Philadelphia, made one of the candidates’ many references to their parents or grandparents. In her case, it was a reminder from Grandma, “It’s not about you, child, or it’s not about you, honey.”
Commonwealth Court Judge Drew Crompton, a Republican running for his seat after being appointed a judge by his former legislative colleagues two years ago, has admitted to having had a happy life. He said he tries to stay humble and has made an effort to leave behind the partisan spirit of his work as a Senate aide to the GOP.
âI’ve tried really hard to prove that in your role as a judge you have to be upright, you have to be balanced,â Crompton said.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Lori Dumas, a Democrat seeking one of two open Commonwealth Court seats, said meeting with “some of the most broken young people” made her realize just how they had little understanding of the concept of justice.
Dumas said she tried to help them “come to terms with the fact that we have a responsibility to them”.
The other Democrat in that race, Allegheny County Common Plea Judge David Spurgeon, said he concluded that “true justice comes from within” and that “trying to heal is ultimate justice “.
Stacey Wallace, a Bradford lawyer who is the fourth candidate in the Commonwealth Court competition, has spoken of trying to ask for justice, kindness and humility.
âI think the way we represent ourselves when we’re judges is something that just doesn’t stop,â Wallace said. âIt’s 24/7.
The event was sponsored by Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, which will publish the video on its website, and the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Voters usually have very little information when they vote in Pennsylvania judicial elections, and there are no other high-profile statewide races this year to draw attention to the general election six weeks from now.
“This is why spreading the word is so important,” said Debbie Gross, president of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts. âWe elect judges, so we should know who we elect and they should not be elected by a few people. “
Brobson and McLaughlin are running for a vacant position created by the retirement of GOP Judge Thomas Saylor. The High Court is currently in the hands of the Democrats, 5-2, so the race will not change the partisan majority.
The opening on the Superior Court is from the retirement of Republican Judge Susan Gantman. It is an intermediate court of appeal that deals with civil and criminal matters in counties.