Two seek Democrats' nod for Pennsylvania Superior Court

Judicial candidates in primary from Pittsburgh, Philly

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HARRISBURG -- Democratic primary voters will choose between Pittsburgher Jack McVay or Joseph Waters of Philadelphia as they select a new judge for the state's Superior Court.

Judge McVay has been an Allegheny County Common Pleas judge in the Family Division since 2008; Judge Waters has served as a Philadelphia Municipal Court judge since 2009.

The state's Superior Court is one of two statewide intermediate appellate courts. It has 15 judges and is responsible for appeals in civil and criminal cases from courts at the Common Pleas level as well as appeals on matters involving children and families. Cases are usually heard by a panel of three judges.

In Mr. McVay's role as a judge in the Family Division, he hears cases involving juvenile delinquency (when juveniles commit crimes), as well as cases involving child custody, adoption and child welfare (involving abuse and neglect).

"Every case, I am looking for the appropriate safe, permanent home for the kids," Mr. McVay said. "And I'm trying to change the dynamic of the case, usually. Be it animosity between parents, animosity between the government agency. I'm trying to change the adversarial nature of family court in every case."

Mr. McVay, 56, of Shadyside, said he has wanted to be a judge since he went to law school. He graduated from Duquesne University in 1984.

"It is the highest form of service in the legal profession," he said.

Prior to becoming a judge, he served as an assistant Allegheny County solicitor from 1998 until 2007; he also previously worked as an assistant city solicitor for the city of Pittsburgh and was Allegheny County Housing Authority general counsel.

Before he became a judge, Mr. Waters, 60, was a Marine, worked for the Philadelphia Police Department for 21 years and also was a lawyer in private practice representing clients in bankruptcy, family law and criminal defense matters.

He is running for Superior Court to bring a new perspective to that role, he said.

"I bring a perspective to the court that doesn't exist there," he said. "I've done more than be a lawyer in my life. I understand what working class people go through. I understand the struggles you have in today's economy."

In his current position at the Philadelphia Municipal Court, he presides over preliminary hearings from minor crimes to homicides and also some civil matters and landlord-tenant disputes.

Mr. Waters, who lives in Center City Philadelphia, said his guiding philosophy on the bench is to make sure defendants have fair treatment.

"Fairness is what the Bill of Rights [is] about. The most important person in the criminal justice system is the defendant -- that's who the Bill of Rights [is] designed to protect."

In the fall, the winning Democrat will face candidate Victor Stabile of Dauphin County, who is unopposed for the Republican nomination.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association has rated all three men in the race "recommended."

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Kate Giammarise:, 1-717-787-4254 or on Twitter: @KateGiammarise. First Published May 12, 2013 4:00 AM


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