Democrats choosing a nominee for Pennsylvania Superior Court must look to Philadelphia or Pittsburgh for their choice on May 21. But the two candidates on the ballot are divided by more than geography; qualifications should be decisive in this race.
Superior Court, which is known for the large number of cases its 15 judges must decide, handles appeals in criminal and most civil cases from the Courts of Common Pleas around the state. It also hears appeals in cases involving children and families. For many petitioners, this court is often their final arbiter.
It helps that a candidate for this bench has the requisite legal knowledge and courtroom experience to judge the sorts of cases that come to Superior Court. In the fall, the Democrat will face Victor P. Stabile of Dauphin County, who is unopposed for the Republican nomination.
The favorite of the Democratic state committee is Joseph C. Waters Jr., 59, of Philadelphia. After a 21-year career with the Philadelphia Police Department, he retired as a captain. Then, having earned his law degree from Temple University in 1994, he was elected in 2009 to Municipal Court, the magisterial level below Common Pleas Court. Judge Waters handles preliminary hearings, landlord-tenant disputes and, since last year, bench-warrant cases in a special effort to reduce the number of fugitives in Philadelphia.The Pennsylvania Bar Association rated him "recommended."
Also rated "recommended" was Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge John T. McVay Jr., 56, of Shadyside.
Before joining the court's Family Division in 2007, Mr. McVay served as an assistant county solicitor, assistant city solicitor and counsel for the county housing authority. The bar association said Judge McVay "is regarded as having outstanding legal ability in his current position" and "is recognized for his diligence, excellent temperament and willingness to employ unique solutions." Many of his cases involve child welfare, juvenile dependency and delinquency.
The judge is running so that his special knowledge of juvenile law may help Superior Court better interpret cases in this area. John T. McVay has earned the Post-Gazette endorsement.