Vote for 3
Christine Donohue (D)
Need to Know
“Coal miner’s daughter”, Began career as a personal-injury lawyer and eventually became a Superior Court judge.
Quote: “Much of what we’ve seen as blowups in the system could have been handled differently if there was a better method of administering the court system that didn’t require justices to, essentially, fight with each other.”
“Highly recommended” rating from the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
Regarded as one of the state’s top litigators before being elected as a Superior Court judge, she was raised in a blue-collar home. There, she says, she learned the value of hard work and the “meaning of integrity,” and was the first in her family to go to college.
As a lawyer, Donahue, 62, focused on personal injury and contract law, “protecting the rights of injured persons, holding corporations accountable for fraudulent behavior, eliminating bias against LGBT parents in custody matters and more.”
She won the state bar association’s highest recommendation, and the endorsement of a long list of traditional Democratic constituencies including over a dozen major unions.
Among her concerns is improving the accessibility of the court and what she calls its “vast” administrative functions, and she pledges to bring “transparency” to the court as well as “the insights … of a long time practitioner who actually brought cases to court.”
Donahue was raised in the Lehigh Valley, the daughter of a union seamstress and a “coal cracker.” She now lives in Pittsburgh.
In its endorsement of her, The Pittsburgh Gazette wrote: “She takes pride in the Superior Court holding sessions away from the major cities and we were impressed by her desire to bring the judges’ work closer to the people — something she’d like the Supreme Court to do.”
She attended East Stroudsburg University and the Duquesne University School of Law.
She’s raised about $166K.
Kevin Dougherty (D)
Need to Know
Has raised much more money than other candidates so far. Highly experienced, with deep financial ties to the political world and labor groups through his brother, union leader “Johnny Doc.”
Quote: “I love my brother. I have the great fortune in having him believe in me and what I stand for…. My brother has never influenced me on the bench or in any decisions I’ve made as a judge.”
Allies often describe him has “tough but effective” as an administrative judge in Philadelphia’s family, juvenile, and Common Pleas courts. Pa. Bar Association calls him “a strong administrator …. fair, open-minded, courteous.” The role of money and politics in Dougherty’s career concerns many judicial reform advocates, but Dougherty has never been personally implicated in any corruption or malfeasance.
Among the best-known and by far the best-funded candidate for Supreme Court, Kevin Dougherty, 53, brings a unique package of experience, interests, connections and concerns to the campaign.
Dougherty, the brother of Philadelphia labor leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, has extensive experience both adjudicating cases and managing courts, and speaks regularly as a specialist on juvenile justice policy, a focus since the beginning of his career.
He once said of his work in Family Court: “I see the anguish in children’s faces. I see the breaking of their hearts when their parents don’t want them. When I speak to a child that has never heard the words ‘I love you,’ it’s the incentive I need to verbalize my love for my kids and make sure I squeeze them and hug them that much extra.”
Dougherty spent almost ten years administering Philadelphia’s Family Court, and is the current administrator of the local district of the Court of Common Pleas, in charge of “120 judges, four main courthouses, approximately 2,000 employees and an annual budget of $106 million.”
In addition to some years in private practice, he has also served as an assistant district attorney and a truancy officer. As a Supreme Court justice, he hopes to help “bring closure to the wounds of (the court’s) reputation” and help it provide “good things for good families.”
“I want the black robe I wear to be viewed by those who come before me as a beacon of hope rather than a symbol of fear,” he has said.
He claims to be an “experienced, compassionate” candidate, and he’s been recommended by both the local and state bar associations, but the possible influence of his deep-pocketed supporters continues to raise the concerns of judicial reform advocates.
Lynn Marks, head of the reform-minded group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, calls him a “credible” candidate but adds, “It’s really hard to argue that people’s perception of such a system is not corroded when judges can accept huge amounts of money from groups and individuals who could very well come before them”
Dougherty remains firm that he’ll remain independent, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer that “my brother has never influenced me on the bench or in any decisions I’ve made, and telling the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he would recuse himself from any cases involving conflicts of interest with his brother.
“What separates me is that I come from a completely different world,” he said. “He’s in the world of labor. I’m in the world of law.”
In his candidate’s questionnaire, Dougherty stressed his independence, and noted that his professional resume remains long on substance and clear of black marks: “I am proud of my record of not having been reversed on appeal in numerous cases where I reconciled conflicting provisions of Pennsylvania’s family law … I am also proud of my reputation for judicial independence and propriety. I have never been criticized for a biased approach or been influenced by outside factors,” he wrote.
(To buttress that claim, his questionnaire details his personal legal history: in 2004, he was the defendant in a $662 small-claims case that settled “amicably”; in 2010 he was deposed as a witness in the bankruptcy proceedings that surrounding the construction of the new Family Court building; and through the years he’s been named in his official capacity in “numerous” civil proceedings challenging Family Court rulings.
(Otherwise, he writes, “I have not been a party to, or involved in, or had a pecuniary interest in, any civil or criminal proceeding. I have not been a party in interest or a material witness in any legal proceeding and have never been named as a co-conspirator or co-respondent. I have never appeared as a witness in, or been the subject of, any grand jury proceeding.”)
Dougherty has raised more money than any other candidate, topping $700,000 as of early April. Almost half of that – about $300,000 – came from the union controlled by his brother, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
He studied at Temple University and Antioch School of Law.
As of early April, he was reported to be one of just three candidates with more than $500,000 on hand.
John Foradora (D)
Need to Know
First Democratic judge elected in Jefferson County history. Second youngest President Judge ever elected anywhere in Pennsylvania.
A Democrat, but not a political insider.
Wants to “clean up the courts” and “stay away from personal battles.”
John Foradora, 35, of DuBois, Pa. has been in law all his life. His career began in the Jefferson County Public Defenders Office before moving onto private practice where he took cases in criminal, family and civil law.
In 2001, Foradora was elected President Judge of Jefferson County Court of Common Pleas in a county with a big Republican lean. As the only trial judge in the county, his cases run the gamut.
“What the Supreme Court sees in a two to three year basis, I see in a month,” he said.
Foradora is “Recommended” by the PA Bar Association and prides himself on being outside of the political machine.
He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame School of Law in Indiana.
Anne Lazarus (D)
Need to Know
Created an “access to justice” program in Philadelphia: providing access to help desks and community legal service access in addition to pro-bono avenues, to make sure all citizens have adequate legal representation.
As a Common Pleas judge in Philadelphia, she handled parental bypass cases with reference to abortion, “And where I determined a young adult had the capacity to make that choice, allowed them to make that choice. Because that’s what choice is all about.”
Quote: “When I meet people on the street every once in a while they ask me, are you tough on crime? My answer is, if you or your brother or sister or member of your family was in front of me, do you want me to be tough on crime, or fair on crime?”
Anne Lazarus, 62, currently serves as a Superior Court judge in Philadelphia County, to which she was elected in 2009. Previously, she was appointed to serve the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas from 1991 until 2009. Lazarus has served on the Judicial Conduct Board since 2011 and became its chair in 2013. She also chaired the State Conference of Trial Judges Ethics Committee for six years.
In 2013, Lazarus received the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Sandra Day O’Connor award, given annually to a woman attorney who has used her position of power to mentor, promote and advance other women lawyers in the community. She’s previously served as president of the Brandeis Law Society, and an adjunct professor at Temple University. She lives in Philadelphia.
Lazarus is “highly recommended” by the PA Bar Association, and has been endorsed by the Chester County Democratic Committee, State Rep. H Scott Conklin, State Sens. Daylin Leach and Judy Schwank and mayors Elizabeth Goreham and Rick Gray.
David Wecht (D)
Need to Know
Running on an ethics and transparency plan:
* no more gifts for judges
* end nepotism
* television broadcast of court proceedings
* require judges to rule on the record or in writing on all motions for recusal
Wants to cut out the political component of the court. “We need to elect justices who are not running to be judicial politicians, but judicial thinkers and judicial writers.”
Thinks Supreme Court justices should only be in the business of deciding cases and not courthouse bureaucracy, including hiring and firing decisions and facility plans.
Before becoming a judge, Baltimore native David Wecht, 52, was a civil and criminal lawyer in D.C. and Pittsburgh doing “all manner of litigation.”
For nearly a decade, Wecht sat on the Common Pleas Court of Allegheny County, spending several years as the Administrative Judge of the Family Division.
In 2011, he was elected to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
Wecht is “Highly Recommended” by the PA Bar Association and is endorsed by the Pennsylvania Democrats, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and the Fraternal Order of Police.
He is a graduate of Yale Law School.
Dwayne Woodruff (D)
Need to Know
Believes in a right to public education. Says he’d “subpoenae” teachers, superintendents to make sure kids are learning in a safe school.
Sat on the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Procedure Rules Committee when it instituted a rule that every juvenile that comes in the courtroom has a right to counsel and cannot waive counsel.
“It’s important to make sure that who you elect understands the people that they’re supposed to represent,” said Woodruff. “I’m in my community every day walking the neighborhoods, talking to people because if I’m going to make a decision with regard to you, I should know who you are and what your interests are.”
Dwayne D. Woodruff, 58, currently serves on the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, to which he was elected in 2005, presiding primarily over juvenile cases in the Family Court Division. He began his law career in 1988 as an attorney, and previously played 12 seasons as a defensive back for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Woodruff has served on a number of state committees including the Juvenile Court Judges Commission and Juvenile Court Procedural Rules committee, to which he was appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Education is at the heart of his campaign. “I believe it’s unconstitutional for a child not to have a good education,” he said.
He says he makes an effort to to get to know the people he would represent.
“I’m in my community every day walking the neighborhoods, talking to people because if I’m going to make a decision with regard to you, I should know who you are and what your interests are.
“I’m transparent. There’s nothing about me that you can’t see, can’t read. Just type in Dwayne on the internet and a 1000 things pop up about me, you can read everything that you want.”
Woodruff is “recommended” by the PA Bar Association and has been endorsed by the Cumberland County Democratic Commission and the Allegheny County Teamsters Locals.
Cheryl Lynn Allen (R)
Need to Know
Former elementary school teacher who did her student teaching in Philadelphia. Stresses right of all children to have access to adequate public education.
Pro-life. “I make no apologies for that. But, as a Supreme Court justice we are bound by the law and by precedent, and as a justice I will interpret the law as I am mandated to do.”
Would be the first African American woman elected to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Stresses need for diversity on the bench.
In 2007, Cheryl Lynn Allen, 67, became the first black woman to be elected to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, where she currently presides in Allegheny County. She was elected to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas in 1991 and served a second term through 2007. Prior to her career as a judge, Allen practiced law for 15 years.
As a Common Pleas Judge, Allen was appointed to the Supreme Court Juvenile Court Judges Commission. She currently served on the board of Hosanna House and the Waynesburg University Board of Trustees. She’s worked with the Youth Enrichment Services and Juvenile Law Project programs, and was honored with the New Pittsburgh Courier’s Women of Excellence Award in 2008, among others. She currently lives in Pittsburgh.
She has called for increased diversity in the judicial system.
“In my nearly 25 years on the bench I’ve been very concerned about what I see coming from the Supreme Court in terms of appointments to commissions, boards, even administrative judges,” said Allen. “The only way we will have diversity is if we have a diverse group of candidates run for the office.”
Allen is “highly recommended” by the PA Bar Association, and has been endorsed by Firearm Owners Against Crime, the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation and LifePAC.
Anne Covey (R)
Need to Know
PA Bar Association asked her to withdraw from this year’s election.
“I’m here to serve all of Pennsylvania. Sometimes people feel like they get slotted in one part of the state or another.”
Thinks the Supreme Court needs someone with “a greater understanding of local and state government” who wants to get “back to the basics of the Constitution.”
Wilmington native Anne Covey, 53, spent 25 years in private practice as a civil litigator specializing in employment and regulatory law, mostly in New Jersey.
In 2011, she was elected a judge of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, where she’s presided over several high-profile cases, including _Corman vs. NCAA_. After a long legal battle, the NCAA agreed to let the $60 million fine imposed on Penn State University in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal stay in the state to support child sex abuse issues instead of being spread around the country.
Citing a misleading campaign ad, the PA Bar Association has “Not Recommended” Covey. She is endorsed by the Republican Party of Pennsylvania as well as the Pro-Life Federation of Pennsylvania.
She is a graduate of the Widener University School of Law in Pennsylvania.
Michael George (R)
Need to Know
Extensive criminal law experience, filling what he called a “void” on the bench
Pro-life, but says his record shows he’s able to set aside personal opinions when deciding cases.
Says he brings geographic balance to the ticket. A court that serves all Pennsylvania citizens should have different insights from different parts of the state.
Michael George, 55, is serving a second 10-year term on the Adams County Court of Common Pleas, where he was first elected in 2001. He is the President Judge of the court. He began his law practice in Gettysburg in 1985 as an attorney, and served as Adams County District Attorney from 1996 to 2001.
George has served as chairperson of the Adams County Criminal Justice Advisory Board as well as the county’s Civil and Criminal Rules Committee. He is also a former committee member of the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges, where he was awarded the state’s Golden Crowbar award for work done to speed up the collection of restitution payments to victims of crimes.
George said he decided to run after a conversation with his son last year. His son, a law student, wondered who’s responsibility it was for the the poor ethics of the court system.
“I was a satisfied empty nester thinking about traveling with my wife,” said George. “There are very good people on the Supreme Court but that’s the perception we were dealing with. We were dropping the ball.”
He also stresses his criminal experience as an asset.
“I bring critical, front line experience. I know what it’s like to sentence someone to death and look them in the eye. The real life on the front lines isn’t as clean as it is in the legal libraries.”
George is “recommended” by the PA Bar Association, and has been endorsed by the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association.
George has raised $540,459 from about 33 different donors. His largest donor is Gary Lowenthal, found of Boyds Bears, have known each other 20 years.
Judith Ference Olson (R)
Need to Know
Decided to run only after concerned supporters approached her about the historic election. “This wasn’t something that I planned to do. I like my job.”
Thinks she can help restore faith in the state’s judicial system by being a judge with integrity and without an agenda – political or otherwise.
Broad experience. Started as a lawyer, then became a trial judge and an appellate judge.
“Judge Judy” grew up in Pittsburgh and still calls it home today. For the first 25 years of her career, she was a private practice lawyer; primarily handling cases connected to commercial litigation, though she also worked white-collar crime.
In 2008, Olson, 57, became a judge in the civil division of the Common Pleas Court of Allegheny County. The following year, she ran for and won a spot on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. Over the last five years, she has ruled on “all types of issues,” from child custody to Constitutional law. “Every case has prepared me well for the Supreme Court.”
Olson is “Highly Recommended” by the PA Bar Association, and has the endorsement of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation.
She is a graduate of the Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh.
Correale Stevens (R)
Need to Know
Deep roots in Northeast Pennsylvania and broad experience in the law and politics. History of bipartisan backing.
Appointed to replace the disgraced Orie Melvin, convicted of corruption, as a Supreme Court Justice. Promised not to be a “seat-warmer.”
Stresses experience and points to: Superior Court opinions he wrote finding that viewing child pornography on a computer could count as “possession”; that a teenager who shot a gun near innocent bystanders could be tried as an adult; and, in a dissent, that a reporter should not be forced to share notes with prosecutors.
Appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett in 2011 to the Supreme Court to replace the disgraced Orie Melvin, Correale “Corry” Stevens, 68, has been deeply rooted in Northeast Pennsylvania for his whole career: lawyer, town solicitor, state representative, district attorney, county judge.
Elected to the Superior Court in 1998, he earned a reputation as a “workhorse” one local writer analyzed his opinions on a variety of cases and found “a judge who is prosecution-oriented, but who respects important constitutional rights … conservative, but well-reasoned.”
Prior to replacing Melvin in 2011, Stevens served as president of the Superior Court, a position to which he was elected by his judicial colleagues; he earned bipartisan endorsements in his run for a county judgeship, and won unanimous approval by the state Senate when appointed to the Supreme Court.
Then-Chief Justice head Ron Castille welcomed him to the state’s highest bench, citing his “wealth of experience” as a lawyer, judge and legislator, and his “commitment and determination” to master new challenges (according to one press report, Stevens got the news of his confirmation while he was getting married: “Stevens said he turned off his cellphone after it began vibrating continually during the ceremony, with senators calling to share the news. He got the details after exchanging vows with his wife”).
Stevens says voters can rely on him to balance Constitutional rights of the accused against those of the police & of victims: “I’ve never written any opinion that jeopardizes the safety of law enforcement.”
Stevens attended Penn State and Dickinson Law.
Stevens has raised a small amount so far, about $44,000, and says he’ll “raise enough money to be competitive, but not enough money that’s going to cause ethical problems.
Rebecca Warren (R)
Need to Know
DA from one of Pennsylvania’s smallest counties, supported by some in law enforcement, but is “not recommended” by Pa. Bar
Quote: “It’s important for someone not from Philadelphia or Pittsburgh to be on the court to represent the average voter in Pennsylvania.”
Pa. Bar withheld recommendation because of concerns about her lack of appellate court experience, administrative experience, and temperament. She calls the bar association a “liberal organization” with a “history of supporting criminals,” and calls herself “qualified and community-minded.”
Warren, 48 and a native of Danville, Pa,, has spent most of her career as a civil litigator, but four years ago was elected DA of central Pennsylvania’s Montour County (pop. 18,000).
An unapologetic backer of “victims rights” as an attorney, Warren says she’s “particularly passionate about protecting our elderly and children.” She has earned a reputation as a friend of law enforcement as a DA – the county’s first woman to serve in that post. She calls herself a supporter of the Constitution who understands rural interests: “It’s important for someone not from Philadelphia or Pittsburgh to be on the court to represent the average voter in Pennsylvania.”
For this election she has earned the endorsement of a coalition of local sheriffs and DAs, but not of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, which gave her this year’s only “not recommended” rating.
She responded: “The opinion of one private interest organization does not deter qualified and community-minded candidates such as myself.”
Warren is a graduate of Bloomsburg University and Dickinson School of Law.
As of early April, campaign finance reports indicate that she had a negative fund balance.
Committee of Seventy contributed to this guide.