Uncommon choices: Allegheny County will nominate four for judge
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Of all the tasks that voters face in elections, choosing judges is one of the most difficult because the candidates are usually not well known outside the legal profession.
In this foggy environment, seemingly familiar names, ballot position, intuition or blind guessing can determine who gets on the bench -- and that's too bad, because Common Pleas Court is the workhorse of the system, where most of the serious business gets done.
That's why the Post-Gazette editorial board takes the time to interview judicial candidates at every opportunity. At this level, it isn't about weighing political or legal philosophies -- indeed, the candidates are usually cross-filed by party on the primary ballot. It is about picking competent candidates able to do the nuts-and-bolts business of Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.
On May 15, 10 candidates are seeking nominations for four positions. Even so, selecting four inevitably excludes some good people. So, with no disrespect to the others, the Post-Gazette endorses the following candidates for party nominations:
John T. "Jack" McVay, 50, of the North Side is an assistant Allegheny County solicitor with extensive courtroom experience handling child abuse and neglect cases. He has also been an assistant city solicitor and general counsel for the Allegheny County Housing Authority.
A graduate of the Duquesne University Law School, he is the only candidate "highly recommended" by the Allegheny County Bar Association. He is also endorsed by the county's Democratic committee. Mr. McVay has an unusual distinction: He is also a licensed, practicing pharmacist.
Cathleen Cawood Bubash, 47, of the North Side has been a magisterial district judge since 2000, which is good preparation for the next level. A graduate of Duquesne Law School, she worked as an Allegheny County public defender for six years. Ms. Bubash has been rated "recommended" by the county bar association.
She has an unusual distinction, too, one that shows her commitment to justice for all. In the summer of 1984 she was selected as one of 25 law students from around the country to go to New York City and work on a voting rights case for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Joe Williams, 55, now lives in Penn Hills but grew up in Manchester and has his legal practice there. He attended Carnegie Mellon University as an undergraduate studying psychology and later earned a master's in clinical psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.
He graduated from Duquesne Law School in 1985. In addition to his legal career, he has been a developer of historically significant properties and has served on various boards, including the NAACP. For three years, he was secretary of the Sports & Exhibition Authority. He is rated "recommended" by the bar association.
Michael E. McCarthy, 57, of Ross is another graduate of Duquesne's law school, but followed an unusual path. He was a U.S. Navy Seabee who saw combat in Vietnam before he went to get his undergraduate degree in English from Duquesne. Then he worked as a detective for the Allegheny County district attorney and attended the county police academy. After receiving his law degree in 1984, he became an assistant district attorney.
Since 1987, he has been a sole practitioner handling a variety of civil, personal injury, criminal and estate cases. He is also a special hearing master and administrative chairman on the Board of Viewers for Common Pleas Court (the body that handles property assessment appeals). He has been endorsed by the county Democratic committee and is rated "recommended" by the bar association.
In addition to these endorsements, we can recommend two other candidates if voters wish to make their own substitutions. Both have been recommended by the bar association.
Shirley Novak, 49, of McCandless is a former assistant public defender and now a sole practitioner. She has filed only as a Democrat.
Wrenna L. Watson, 53, of the Hill District is in solo practice and also serves as solicitor in the county controller's officer and as chair of the city planning commission. She is cross-filed on the ballot.
First Published April 27, 2007 9:27 pm