Judicial reform advocate steps down

Lynn A. Marks, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, is stepping down.

The judicial reform group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts announced Wednesday that executive director Lynn A. Marks is stepping down and that Maida Milone, a lawyer with long experience in both the pharmaceutical industry and the nonprofit sector, would be taking her place.

For 25 years, Marks has been the most consistently audible voice in the movement to change Pennsylvania's system of electing judges to an appointment process that proponents say would limit the impact of politics on the judiciary.

Marks said she would stay on in a consulting role for a while as the legislature considers a proposed constitutional amendment that would bring to an end the election of appellate-level judges in Pennsylvania. Under the proposal, a commission appointed by the governor and the legislature would select qualified candidates and send their names along to the governor, who would have to select nominees from the commission's list.

"It has been a labor of love to serve PMC," Marks said. "This is a good way to transition. I didn't want to leave the organization high and dry."

Milone joins Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts from the Devereaux Foundation, which provides treatment and services to special-needs children and adults, where she was vice president of business development and strategic planning. Before her time at Devereaux, Milone was executive director of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and had served as general counsel of the DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co., a joint venture between those two companies based in Wilmington.

Milone, of Wynnewood, said her interest in judicial reform was grounded in her work as a lawyer and her belief that "a fair and impartial court system is really paramount to our way of life."

"It is such a critical issue," she said.

Marks won high praise for her work from retired Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Phyllis Beck, who chairs PMC's advisory board.

"Lynn has been, in a phrase, beyond fabulous in her role as PMC's executive director," Beck said. "She has been our leader, our guiding spirit, our champion . . . and our optimist for a quarter century."

Interest in judicial reform has ebbed and flowed in Pennsylvania over time. But a series of scandals - beginning with the disclosure in 2014 that former Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery had sent hundreds of pornographic emails, many to lawyers in the state Attorney General's Office, and that his wife had received case-referral fees from personal-injury lawyers - has cast the state judicial system in an unflattering light and given some impetus to reform proposals.

For a proposed constitutional amendment to become law, it must be passed in two consecutive sessions of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and then approved by voters in a referendum, a high political bar.

Marks said that the scandals have focused attention on the issue, but that damaging publicity and exposes were not enough.

"We have learned that court scandals bring headlines and put the issues of the courts on the front pages, but they do not hand us reform on a silver platter," she said.

cmondics@phillynews.com

215-854-5957@cmondics

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