Who is on the road to becoming a Philly judge?

Well, the May 19 judicial races are beginning to take shape.

Last Friday, the Democratic City Committee announced which candidates it was backing for the seven vacancies on Common Pleas Court as well as the four on Municipal Court. And on Monday, the Philadelphia Bar Association disclosed its first picks, with more expected soon.

That said, the number of judicial aspirants for both courts - a month ago there were 38 - is beginning to dwindle. According to the Pennsylvania Department of State, the Commonwealth Court has already agreed to remove five candidates from the ballot: J. Scott O'Keefe, James Lloyd, Dawn A. Segal, Meredith Seigle-DiClaudio and Leon King.

Among those who have opted out is King, who was city Prison Commissioner under former Mayor John F. Street. King was one of the lucky ones who drew a good ballot position - he was No. 8 - which is considered near critical to victory on a crowded ticket.

"I withdrew my name from consideration in the best interest of everybody concerned, most especially the Democratic Party," he said. "I want to help Chairman Brady in his effort to bring more organization to the process."

King didn't say so, but what he was referring to was a concerted effort by U.S. Rep. Bob Brady's, chairman of the City Committee, to reinforce the party's influence in deciding who gets to be a judge in Philadelphia. Consider: In 2007, just one of the party's four endorsed candidates was elected. In 2005, while there were eight vacancies, just four were filled by candidates backed by the party.

Brady wants this year to be quite different, and he has let that be known. Among other messages dispatched, Brady has said that candidates not endorsed by the party this time who wish to be endorsed in the future must withdraw from the May primary ballot.

For the record, here is who the party has backed this year for Common Pleas Court: Dan Anders, Robert Coleman, Roxanne Covington, Joyce Eubanks, Sharon Williams-Losier and Donna Woelpper. For Municipal Court, the endorsed candidates include: Pat Dugan, Charles Hayden, Thomas Nocella and Joseph Waters.

The bar association is still evaluating candidates, as it does each election cycle, but to date, four of the party's candidatse have yet to receive the association's recommendation. They are Roxanne Covington, Sharon Williams-Losier, Charles Hayden and Thomas Nocella.

UPDATE: The Democratic Party has also endorsed Angeles Roca, a judge appointed last October to fill a Common Pleas Court vacancy.

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