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        Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission Releases Final Round of Ratings for Potential 2019 Pennsylvania Superior Court Judicial Candidates

        HARRISBURG (March 11, 2019) – The Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission (PBA JEC) today released its final round of ratings for potential judicial candidates seeking election to the state’s appellate courts in November. In the 2019 election, voters will be filling two seats on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

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

        These are the PBA JEC’s ratings for the potential candidates in this round:

        Highly Recommended
        Judge Timika R. Lane, Philadelphia County

        Not Recommended
        Ryan H, James, Allegheny County
        Elizabeth M. Tarasi, Allegheny County

        “Our commission provides information to help voters choose candidates who are best suited to serve as fair, impartial and knowledgeable jurists on our commonwealth’s highest courts,” said Heidi B. Masano of Berks County, chair of the PBA JEC. “The PBA JEC only recommends candidates found to have the legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament that are needed to provide satisfactory or outstanding performance as appellate judges and justices.”

        The PBA JEC based its ratings for each candidate on a two-part evaluation process. Investigative panels conducted the first phase of the process, which included personal interviews with the candidates and with individuals who have had professional or personal dealings with them. Upon completion of the investigative process, the panels submitted confidential reports to the commission.

        Upon receipt and review of the investigative panel’s report, the commission conducted the second phase of the evaluation process. The commission interviewed each candidate in Harrisburg, discussed his or her qualifications and reached consensus on each candidate’s rating.

        The commission includes lawyer and non-lawyer members from across the state.

        Serving with Masano in the leadership of the PBA JEC are Berks County lawyer Richard A. Estacio and Allegheny County lawyer Kimberly D. Moses, who are the commission’s co-vice chairs, and Montgomery County lawyer Robert F. Morris, who is the commission’s immediate past chair. 

        Lawyer members include Jennifer S. Coatsworth of Philadelphia County, Stephanie F. Latimore of Dauphin County, Lara J. Endler of Luzerne County, Brian J. Lindsay of Crawford County, Rhoda Shear Neft of Allegheny County, Denise C. Pekelnicky of Erie County, Howard A. Rothenberg of Lackawanna County, Joel C. Seelye of Blair County and Su Ming Yeh of Philadelphia County.

        Non-lawyer members are Victoria A. Connor of York County, Mary A. Coploff of Clinton County, Gregory Cowhey of Philadelphia County, Keith W. Eckel of Lackawanna County, Melody A. Filicky of Fayette County and Edith M. Marino of Lycoming County.

        RATINGS DEFINITIONS

        Highly Recommended: The candidate possesses the highest combination of legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament and would be capable of outstanding performance as a judge or justice of the court for which he/she is a candidate.

        Recommended: Based on legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament, the candidate would be able to perform satisfactorily as a judge or justice of the court for which he/she is a candidate.

        Not Recommended: Based on legal ability, experience, integrity or temperament, or any combination thereof, at the present time, the candidate is inadequate to perform satisfactorily as a judge or justice of the court for which he/she is a candidate.

        Ryan H. James

        Rating: Not Recommended

        The candidate has been a practicing lawyer since 2012. He worked as an associate for three months following graduation from law school. Thereafter, he opened his own law office where he currently is a sole practitioner. He initially maintained a general practice firm. His practice transformed to focus on private criminal defense and appeals with occasional civil trial work. He has no judicial clerkship experience. Although he has written appellate briefs, his appellate advocacy experience is not extensive. The writing samples submitted were an acceptable work product but not particularly scholarly. Although known for his good temperament and diligent work ethic, the commission finds the candidate has not had the breadth or depth of experience necessary to take on the role of judge on the Pennsylvania Superior Court and, therefore, does not recommend his candidacy at this time.

        Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

        Judge Timika R. Lane

        Rating: Highly Recommended

        The candidate was elected to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in 2013 and presides over criminal matters. Prior to her tenure on the court, in 2003, she accepted a position in private practice representing clients in family law matters while also representing indigent families as a certified child advocate. Thereafter, she worked in the Public Defender’s Office as a major trial attorney from 2004 to 2009. In November 2009, she was named as chief counsel and minority executive director of the State Government Committee for a Pennsylvania state senator. The candidate’s writing has been described as well-reasoned, clear and concise. Her colleagues describe her as fair, even handed, highly ethical, hardworking and knowledgeable. She demonstrates a commitment to public service and has extensive community involvement. Due to her background, attributes and experience, the commission is confident the candidate would serve with distinction as a Superior Court judge and highly recommends her candidacy.

        Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

        Elizabeth M. Tarasi

        Rating: Not Recommended

        The candidate began the practice of law in 1990 clerking for Judge William Standish of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. She joined her father’s firm, Tarasi and Tarasi PC in 1993. Since then, her legal career with the firm has resulted in a large body of trial work that demonstrates she has the requisite legal knowledge, ability and writing skills necessary to fill a seat on the Superior Court. The candidate has a record of active community involvement and initially appeared to possess the appropriate temperament and character for the judiciary. However, during her interview with the commission, it was revealed that she failed to exercise oversight of plagiarized content on her social media website. When questioned, she failed to accept full accountability for the matter, leaving the commission with concerns about her character and integrity. As a result, the commission does not recommend her candidacy for the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

        Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

        On Jan. 25, the PBA JEC issued its first round of ratings that included these potential candidates:

        Highly Recommended
        Judge Daniel D. McCaffery, Philadelphia County

        Recommended
        Catherine Marie “Kate” Harper, Montgomery County
        Megan Lee King, Chester County
        Judge Christylee L. Peck, Cumberland County

        Not Recommended
        Amanda Green-Hawkins, Allegheny County

        Catherine Marie “Kate” Harper

        Rating: Recommended

        The candidate served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 2000 through 2018. While in the Legislature, she served on the House Judiciary Committee. The candidate drafted legislation to extend the mandatory judicial retirement age to 75. Throughout her service in the House of Representatives, she maintained an active legal practice focusing on municipal, personal injury, criminal defense and domestic relations cases. Later, she concentrated on commercial and real estate litigation. During the course of her legal career, she has appeared before all levels of the state and federal court system. The candidate has presented oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. She has earned a reputation for being well prepared, even tempered, industrious and compassionate, and, for these reasons, the commission recommends her candidacy for the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

        Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

        Amanda Green-Hawkins

        Rating: Not Recommended

        The candidate has been an attorney for the United Steel Workers (USW) since 2002. Prior to working at the USW, she served as a law clerk for Judge Laurence Lawson on the Superior Court of New Jersey. At the USW, the candidate has served as an assistant counsel and, most recently, as director of the Civil and Human Rights Division, where she has been charged with providing advice and counsel, overseeing training and compliance, and developing policy. She has successfully argued cases in both federal district and appellate courts. Her peers, mentors and supervisors credit the candidate with having a strong work ethic. The candidate supports underserved communities, acts with integrity and displays an appropriate demeanor. However, the commission finds the candidate has not had the experience and preparation necessary to take on the role of judge on the Pennsylvania Superior Court and, therefore, does not recommend her candidacy at this time.

        Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

        Megan L. King

        Rating: Recommended

        The candidate began her legal career in 1996 with the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office where she focused on cases involving child abuse. The candidate then clerked for Justice Thomas Saylor of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from 1999 to 2001. In 2012, the candidate returned to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office where she was integral in leading the Elder Abuse Unit and in maintaining duties in the Child Abuse Unit. In 2015, the candidate began working as the deputy district attorney in the Child Abuse Unit in Chester County. The candidate has extensive criminal trial experience. She is described by attorneys and judges as intelligent, articulate, fair, well prepared and diligent. In addition to her legal experience, she is involved in several charitable organizations. The commission finds that the candidate possesses the legal ability, experience, integrity and judicial temperament to perform satisfactorily as a judge of the Superior Court and recommends her candidacy.

        Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

        Judge Daniel D. McCaffery

        Rating: Highly Recommended

        The candidate is an experienced jurist known for his high degree of professionalism and good judicial temperament. He is engaging, sincere, intelligent and affable with an admirable work ethic. His legal career has taken several paths. He served as an assistant district attorney for five years and then was in private practice for 16 years. The candidate has served as a common pleas court judge since 2014. He has a sound knowledge of legal principles, with his opinions and legal writings being well-reasoned. He also has extensive community involvement, including volunteering as a coach for the past 20 years. Because of his broad experience as a practicing attorney, proven record of judicial leadership, high ethical standards and dedication to the legal profession, the commission is confident that the candidate would serve with distinction as a Superior Court judge and highly recommends his candidacy. 

        Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

        Judge Christylee L. Peck

        Rating: Recommended

        The candidate has practiced law since 2001, first serving as an associate in private practice with civil trial litigation and business law duties and then as an assistant district attorney in Lancaster County in the Child Abuse Unit. From 2005 until her election in 2011 to the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas, she served as the senior district attorney in Cumberland County specializing in the prosecution of sex crimes, child abuse and other major crimes. The candidate has acquired a broad array of experience as a result of her duties as a prosecuting attorney and seven years on the bench. Her legal opinions are considered thorough, logical and well-reasoned. She is recognized as a hard worker, articulate and accomplished, as well as thoughtful, approachable and fair in her interactions with litigants and attorneys. The commission believes the candidate’s experience as a lawyer and as a judge will enable her to ably fulfill the responsibilities of a Superior Court judge and therefore recommends her candidacy.

        Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

        Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association strives to promote justice, professional excellence and respect for the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access of legal services; and serve the lawyer members of the state's largest organized bar association.

        Editor’s note: Additional information about the PBA JEC can be found on the PBA website, www.zaii7.com, and the association’s voter information website, www.pavotesmart.org.


         

         

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