Bar association: Covey ‘not recommended’ for Supreme Court

One day after Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey went public with her criticism of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Judicial Evaluation Commission, the group released its latest round of recommendations for judgeships on this year’s ballot.

Covey is “not recommended” for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Judith Olson, of Allegheny County, is noted as “highly recommended” on this second round of endorsements. The first round, released last month, had five other “highly recommended” names and seven “recommended” names, but just one other “not recommended” for the three Supreme Court positions.

Covey’s campaign released a letter Monday that included criticism of the board’s chairman, Montgomery County lawyer Robert F. Morris, an exceeded authority by the JEC, a secretive process and an allegation of a potential conflict of interest on the part of Penn State trustee Keith Eckel.

Eckel, an agriculture-elected member of the Penn State governing body, is a nonlawyer member of the commission from Lackawanna County. Penn State was a defendant, along with the NCAA, in a lawsuit brought by state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, and former state treasurer Rob McCord. Covey presided over that case in Commonwealth Court, often siding with the plaintiffs and delivering some stern rebukes to the defense.

Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said Tuesday that Eckel did recuse himself from conflict issues on the commission.

“I never attended an interview or a meeting to evaluate any candidates,” Eckel said in a statement.

The panel also included Ernest Salvino, husband of Penn State Alumni Association President Kay Salvino, who will be a member of the board of trustees when her association term is completed under new rules passed in November.

“Her opinions as a member of the Commonwealth Court have been well written, clear and concise,” the JEC’s Tuesday statement said.

The reasons given for denying the recommendation were related to her 2011 Commonwealth Court campaign.

“The candidate signed a pledge to not engage in false or misleading campaign advertising. The commission viewed one of her campaign advertisements, which aired in early November of 2011, and concluded she violated her pledge,” the release stated. “Moreover, when questioned about the matter, in the Commission’s opinion, she was not forthright in her responses. Because of violations of her 2011 campaign advertising pledge, and her recent failure to answer the Commission’s questions about her advertisement in an honest and straightforward manner, the Commission cannot recommend her candidacy for the Supreme Court.”

Covey responded to the release, saying that although she appreciated the assessment of her judicial record, she found the basis of the recommendation on a 30-second ad “the height of irresponsibility.”

“The ad in question was factual and I stand by its accuracy,” she wrote.

The JEC issued a “recommended” rank for another Penn State-connected jurist seeking the state’s top bench, Commonwealth Court Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer, wife of trustee Bob Jubelirer.