The highest-ranking offices on the Pennsylvania ballot next month are two that most voters know little about.
Superior Court and Commonwealth Court are the state's two intermediate appellate benches. Superior is often portrayed as the workhorse of the judicial system because it hears appeals of both civil and criminal cases from the county Courts of Common Pleas, concluding more than 8,400 appeals last year. Commonwealth is a specialized court that hears appeals on cases involving state and local government, regulatory agencies, labor law, insurance, utilities, banking, zoning, worker's compensation and taxes.
Voters will choose a new judge for each court on Nov. 8, and the choices in each race couldn't be more clear.
The Republican nominee for Superior Court is Victor P. Stabile, 54, of Cumberland County, who won a two-person primary last spring. A graduate of the Dickinson School of Law, Mr. Stabile is a civil litigator who manages the Harrisburg office of the Dilworth Paxson law firm. He is a former deputy attorney general who defended state agencies in trial and appellate courts. The Middlesex Township resident also has served on his municipality's board of supervisors for 10 years.
The Pennsylvania Bar Association rated him as "recommended," noting that his writing skills are strong, as is his experience in handling cases before appellate courts. He also has an exemplary record of pro bono service.
Although a former county Republican chairman, Mr. Stabile, in his interview with Post-Gazette editorial writers, described a career in which he has been able to leave politics at the door when it comes to the law.
Even so, his experience doesn't match that of Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David Wecht, who has his own political resume. Mr. Wecht, 49, of Indiana Township is the son of former county coroner, commissioner and Democratic Party head Cyril Wecht. The judge was previously the elected register of wills for Allegheny County and an attorney in private practice.
In 2003 he was appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate to fill a vacancy on the Common Pleas bench. He ran for election successfully the same year to keep the seat. Assigned to the court's Family Division, which handles domestic relations and juvenile proceedings, Judge Wecht was appointed six years later by the Supreme Court to be the division's administrative judge. In that role, he instituted the "One Judge, One Family" policy in which a family's case would be supervised by the same judge, regardless of the path that case follows. Last January, Judge Wecht moved to the court's Civil Division.
With this range of experience, the state bar gave him its highest rating, "highly recommended," saying that he "has served with distinction" and "implemented innovative programs." The bar association added, "His opinions evidence thoughtful scholarly research and demonstrate his keen intellect." And Judge Wecht doesn't reserve that intellect solely for his courtroom; the Yale University and Yale Law School graduate is on the adjunct faculty of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and he is an adjunct professor at the Duquesne University School of Law.
Pennsylvanians will be well served if their next Superior Court judge brings such a record of distinction to the bench. That's why the Post-Gazette endorses Judge David Wecht.
Democrat Kathryn Boockvar and Republican Anne E. Covey, both of Bucks County, are seeking the seat on Commonwealth Court.
Ms. Boockvar, 43, has practiced law for 17 years before state and federal courts. A specialist in election, voting rights and discrimination cases, she was senior attorney with the Advancement Project, an advocacy group that works with various organizations and levels of government to eliminate barriers to voting and increase election participation.
Prior to that, Ms. Boockvar was managing partner for 11 years of a legal practice owned jointly with her husband. Their firm specialized in employment, insurance, pension, unemployment compensation, Social Security, bankruptcy, abuse and family law cases. In 2007 she ran unsuccessfully for county register of wills.
Ms. Covey, 51, has been an attorney for 26 years, represented clients in state and federal courts and is in her first run for elected office. A member of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, she's an expert in the field of employment law and the author of "The Workplace Law Advisor."
Along with her firm, Covey & Associates, with offices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, she has represented national and international companies, small firms and nonprofit organizations in labor and workplace cases. She was a law clerk in the 1980s for Commonwealth Court President Judge David Craig.
While both candidates are rated "recommended" by the state bar association, we give the edge to Kathryn Boockvar, who has represented clients at all levels of the income spectrum and all across Pennsylvania. Her broad gauge of experience will be an asset for the people on Commonwealth Court.