Pennsylvania appeals court judge candidates to take part in online forum

People walk by the Pennsylvania Judicial Center at the state Capitol in Harrisburg.

People walk by the Pennsylvania Judicial Center at the state Capitol in Harrisburg. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Eight candidates for four open seats on Pennsylvania’s appeals courts are expected to participate Monday in an online forum, six weeks ahead of the November election.

The format will be question-and-answer with most candidate responses limited to 30 seconds, according to Debbie Gross, president of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, the good government advocacy group that is helping sponsor the event along with the Free Library of Philadelphia.

“I call it speed dating because they really have to get their answer short and sweet,” Gross said.

Those interested in watching the event need to register through the website of Pennsylvanians for Moderns Courts. It starts at 7 p.m. and is expected to last about an hour.

The moderator is Maureen McBride, who co-chairs the appellate department of a prominent law firm outside Philadelphia and co-chairs the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Appellate Advocacy Committee.

Voters generally have very little information when casting ballots in Pennsylvania’s judicial elections, and there are no other marquee statewide races this year to draw attention to the Nov. 2 general election.

“This is why getting out the word is so important,” Gross said. “We’re electing judges, then we should know who we’re electing and they shouldn’t be elected by just a few people.”

The Supreme Court contest pits Republican Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson against Democratic Superior Court Judge Maria McLaughlin for a vacancy created by the retirement of GOP Justice Thomas Saylor. The high court is currently in Democratic hands, 5-2, so the race will not change the partisan majority.

The opening on Superior Court is from the retirement of Republican Judge Susan Gantman. It’s an intermediate appeals court that handles civil and criminal cases from counties.

The Democrat is Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Timika Lane, and longtime prosecutor Megan Sullivan is the Republican.

The candidates for two openings on Commonwealth Court are Philadelphia Judge Lori Dumas and Allegheny County Judge David Spurgeon, the Democrats, and Bradford lawyer Stacy Wallace and appointed Commonwealth Court Judge Drew Crompton, the Republicans.

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