Bar Association releases its recommendations

 

Three candidates at the top of the ballot for city judgeships this year received endorsements by the Democratic Party but were not recommended by the Philadelphia Bar Association, including one who has been penalized by the state disciplinary board.

Lawyers Scott DiClaudio, Tracy Brandeis Roman, and Sharon Williams-Losier, all drew top three positions on the ballot for Common Pleas or Municipal Court judge, secured party endorsements Saturday, but were rated "Not Recommended" on a list the Bar Association released Monday.

The contradiction is not surprising, says Lynn Marks, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, which supports merit-based judicial selection.

"For the party, electability is key . . . but the Bar Association is looking at each of these candidates individually based on 10 categories, and not as a big mosaic," Marks said.

Philadelphia's process for selecting judges has been highly criticized. Much of a candidate's success is tied to ballot position, given how little voters know about the individuals running for judgeships. This year, with 15 openings between Municipal and Common Pleas Courts, 63 people signed up to run, with some filing to run for both benches, which is allowed. After the lottery for ballot position ended, 24 candidates withdrew from both races.

DiClaudio, a criminal defense lawyer who picked the No. 1 ballot position in the race for Common Pleas Court judge, said he did not submit materials for a bar review by the Dec. 5 deadline. Candidates who don't submit questionnaires to the association are automatically not recommended.

But DiClaudio may not have been rated highly anyway. He is one of the only candidates who has been cited by the state Disciplinary Board. DiClaudio received one year of probation in 2011 for mishandling a client's appeal several years earlier. He was also informally admonished in 2003 and in 2008, according to court filings.

DiClaudio said Monday he had 24 years' experience trying more than 250 cases and admitted his mistake.

"I admitted I missed that deadline and through my actions the appeal was reinstated," DiClaudio said. "I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses - I readily admit I failed to meet the deadline."

In a dissenting opinion of the 2011 order, Justice Max Baer said DiClaudio should have received a higher penalty, six months' suspension, "given . . . a longitudinal history of similar disciplinary infractions with apparently little concern for his continuing transgressions."

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, chairman of the Democratic City Committee, spoke highly of all three candidates who were not recommended by the Bar Association (seven other candidates who the party endorsed were recommended and four have yet to be rated).

"I would always like to be in accord with the Bar Association, sometimes I can't be 100 percent," Brady said.

Brady said he discussed DiClaudio's past infractions with District Attorney Seth Williams, who approved of his candidacy. DiClaudio worked in the District Attorney's Office from 1988 to 1992.

"I knew of the issues, I talked with the district attorney, and I hold Seth Williams' opinion above the bar's," Brady said.

Williams-Losier, a third-time candidate for judge, drew the first position in the race for Municipal Court Judge. Williams-Losier also said she didn't submit for a review from the Bar Association. She was recommended the first time she ran but not recommended a second time.

Williams-Losier, a ward leader in the Olney section of the city, said the feedback she received from the association last time cited a lack of community service.

"If you don't participate in their process, they say you're not recommended, that puts me in a bad position," Williams-Losier said. "What I would ask the voters is to Google me - find as much information independently."

Roman, an attorney based in Center City, is listed third on the ballot for Common Pleas judge. Attempts to reach her were unsuccessful.

The Bar Association does not release information about why a candidate is not recommended.

Party endorsement typically means a candidate's name will appear on sample ballots handed out by poll workers on election day. It can also help with fund-raising.

In the first of two rounds of ratings, the association highly recommended four candidates, recommended 20 candidates, and did not recommend 15 candidates. Some names appeared on both Municipal and Common Pleas lists.

The bar's recommendations are based on legal ability, experience, integrity, temperament, community involvement, and judgment. A commission of 30 lawyers and non-lawyers conduct confidential interviews and review an applicant's records with the Disciplinary Board, Lawyers Fund for Client Security, the State Ethics Commission, and the City Ethics Board.

"We are a non-political process and we just call balls and strikes," said Albert Dandridge, the Bar Association's chancellor. "The political parties have their own way of doing things - hopefully they line up, and sometimes they don't."

A second round of about 20 ratings will be released in coming weeks, Dandridge said.

 


Phila. Bar Recommendations

The Philadelphia Bar Association on Monday released its recommendations for judicial candidates. There are 12 vacancies on Common Pleas Court and three on the Municipal Court. Some candidates filed for both elections. A second round of ratings will be released in the coming weeks.

Court of Common Pleas,

Highly Recommended

Abbe F. Fletman

Christopher P. Mallios Jr.

Kai N. Scott

Municipal Court,

Highly Recommended

Christopher P. Mallios Jr.

Court of Common Pleas,

Recommended

James F. Berardinelli

Lucretia Clemons

James C. Crumlish 3d

Michael Fanning

Vincent Giusini

Daine A. Grey Jr.

Anthony G. Kyriakakis

Thomas Martin

Christopher I. McCabe

Vincent Melchiorre

Brian T. Ortelere

Ourania Papademetriou

Kenneth James Powell Jr.

Stella Ming Tsai

Betsy Jo Wahl

Municipal Court,

Recommended

Michael Fanning

Vincent Giusini

Roger Gordon

Matthew Kent Perks

Joffie C. Pittman

Common Pleas Court,

Not Recommended

Franklin A. Bennett 3d

Deborah D. Cianfrani

Scott DiClaudio

Vincent W. Furlong

Sharon Williams-Losier

Edward W. Louden Jr.

Jon Marshall

Tracy Brandeis Roman

Zachary C. Shaffer

Dawn M. Tancredi

Municipal Court,

Not Recommended

Franklin A. Bennett 3d

Christian DiCicco

Sharon Williams-Losier

Tracy Roman

Gary S. Silver


INSIDE

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jterruso@phillynews.com

215-854-5506 @juliaterruso