SUPERIOR COURT JUSTICE
The Pennsylvania Superior Court is one of two intermediate appellate courts. It hears all criminal and civil appeals from the Courts of Common Pleas except for death-penalty cases and those that are specifically assigned to the Commonwealth Court. The Court has 15 judges, with the President Judge elected by the members. Judges of the Superior Court must be lawyers and must reside in Pennsylvania for at least a year before their election and for as long as they continue in office.
Term: 10 years
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Question: What does the phrase “judicial independence” mean to you?
Timothy J. McCormick
Did not respond
Birth date: Feb. 14, 1954
Education: 1976, Penn State, B.S., magna cum laude; 1981, Dickinson School of Law, J.D., honor society
Occupation: judge, Court of Common Pleas Qualification: rated No. 1 in fairness and impartiality for past eight years, overall 70 state and federal trial judges in county, by the Allegheny County Bar Association survey of nearly 8,000 practitioners; “highly recommended” by Pennsylvania Bar Association
Answer to question: The judiciary is responsible for protecting the individual rights of the people. Judicial independence means that a judge should be willing to make the correct decision under the law (including the Constitution) even though that decision might be unpopular among some groups.
Anne E. Lazarus
Address: not provided
Birth date: not provided
Education: 1972, SUNY at Stony Brook, B.A.; 1976, Temple University School of Law, J.D.; 1986, Temple University School of Law, LLM
Occupation: judge, Court of Common Pleas Qualifications: of Counsel, Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP; 10 years, legal Counsel to Orphans’ Court Division
Answer to question: Judicial independence is a critical part of maintaining the judiciary as a strong, co-equal branch of government. The courts must be free from pressure, whether personal or political, in order to focus on doing what is right for our community, our country and our Constitution. As a judge for over 15 years, law clerk and a lawyer before that, I have maintained my independence by focusing on doing what is right, not what is popular.
James Murray Lynn
Birth date: Oct. 15, 1947
Education: 1970, LaSalle University, B.A.; 1973, Loyola University School of Law, J.D.; 1995, National Judicial CollegeOccupation: judge, Court of Common Pleas Qualifications: 16 years trial judge — almost all court divisions; prosecutor, three years; 15 years private-practice attorney; “recommended” by Pennsylvania Bar Association; lifelong record of community and public service
Answer to question: The American form of government of three equal coordinate branches — legislative, executive and judicial — can be likened to a three-legged stool. If any one of the legs does not play a supporting role, then the entire stool will collapse. Each branch, and particularly the judicial branch, must be independent and free from overpowering interferences, undue influences or dependencies from the other branches in order for our government to stand and work effectively and with integrity.
Birth date: Dec. 24, 1952
Education: 1974, East Stroudsburg State University, B.A.; 1980, Duquesne University School of Law, J.D.
Qualifications: highest possible recommendation for the Superior Court: Judicial, 26 years of trial and appellate courts experience
Answer to question: Judicial independence is the foundation of a fair and impartial judicial system and one of the pillars of our democracy. Decision-making must be free of any external influence (political, social or economic). If such influence could result in a decision that is based on anything other than an impartial review of the record and the fair application of the law, a Superior Court judge should recuse herself.
John Milton Younge
Birth date: July 19, 1955
Education: 1977, Boston University, B.S.; 1981, Howard University School of Law, J.D.
Occupation: judge, Court of Common Pleas
Qualifications: 10 years as trial judge with Court of Common Pleas and 10 years of service at the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, deputy executive director and general counsel
Answer to question: It means that judges need the independence to fairly interpret the constitution and resolve disputes without political interference. Judges must have both decisional independence and institutional independence. Decisional independence means the freedom to issue decisions that may be constitutionally sound but politically unpopular. The judiciary must also have the institutional independence from the other branches of government to perform its function without concern that resources needed for operation will be withheld.
James M. DeLeon
Birth date: Dec. 25, 1946
Education: 1970, Howard University, B.S.; 1976, Delaware School of Law, J.D.
Occupation: judge, Philadelphia Municipal Court
Qualifications: 20 years judicial experience, 15 years in Army Corps of Engineers, 10 years practicing attorney
Answer to question: Judicial independence is the freedom that a judge should have to decide a case before him/ her impartially, based on the facts and in accordance with the law, without restrictions, improper influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interferences from outside pressure or special interests.
Birth date: June 25, 1949
Education: 1973, Penn State, B.A.; 1976, University of Pennsylvania, J.D.
Occupation: judge, Court of Common Pleas
Qualifications: Penn State grad; served his country in Vietnam; 25 years broad legal experience; 11 years as solicitor to Dauphin County Controller; served as Susquehanna Township supervisor; nominated to court by Tom Ridge in 2001
Answer to question: I have a rather conservative view on most matters, particularly with regard to the role of a judge. I believe a judge does not serve a policymaking function and should, therefore, restrict himself or herself to interpreting and applying the law as it is, and should never attempt to re-write the law as he or she thinks it should be. A judge is to put aside all personally held beliefs and decide the cases that come before him or her by applying the law to the facts and do so impartially and fairly.
Birth date: Dec. 16, 1947
Education: 1969, Penn State, B.S.; 1975, Pittsburgh University School of Law, J.D.
Occupation: judge, Court of Common Pleas Qualifications: 16 years as judge of Allegheny County, 15 years as an attorney, 13 years as assistant solicitor, three years as an elementary school teacher.
Answer to question: Judicial independence is maintained when the judge holds fast and true to the oath taken upon induction — that oath being to uphold the constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. When a judge is committed to upholding the constitution and interpreting the law, thereby doing what is right, political expediency cannot enter into the picture.
Birth date: June 5, 1953
Education: 1975, Temple University, B.S.N.; 1981, Virginia University, M.S.N. 1990; Duke University School of Law, J.D. (high honors)
Occupation: lawyer with Thorp, Reed & Armstrong, LLP
Qualifications: Extensive experience in civil, administrative and criminal law, certified arbitrator and mediator, teaches appellate practice at Pitt Law School, “recommended” by the Pennsylvania Bar Assocation, longstanding community volunteer, former nurse and nurse educator.
Answer to question: Judicial independence means that a judge is obligated to faithfully and impartially apply the law, free from personal bias, financial or other personal interests, and outside influences. However, more must be required of our judges. They must avoid even the appearance of impropriety, which includes the appearance of lacking judicial independence. This means that a judge should limit contacts, affiliations, business dealings and comments that would reasonably call into question his or her judicial independence.