Editorial | For Pa. Supreme Court

A fine crop

Another low-interest election for Pennsylvania Supreme Court? Oh, no. Those days are gone, thanks to the 2005 legislative pay raise - a controversy that, given the court's blessing of the raise, led to the first justice ever to be booted off the state's highest court by voters.

That means Democratic and Republican voters in the May 15 primary should be more attuned to what's at stake in making the best choices for nomination to fill two court vacancies. Fortunately, both parties offer good fields from which to choose.

The seven candidates running - two women and five men - all bring judicial experience and varied experiences before reaching the bench.

Superior Court Judge Seamus P. McCaffery, a Democrat, was a Philadelphia cop and the creator of "Eagles Court" at the Vet. A Republican who serves on the city Court of Common Pleas, Judge Paul P. Panepinto, developed a truancy program in Family Court that became a national model.

They are estimable candidates, but four others stand out more:

For impressive credentials and a sound judicial temperament, Democratic voters can hardly do better than Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge C. DARNELL JONES 2D. In its rating, the Pennsylvania Bar Association notes that, in addition to serving as president judge of his court, Jones, 57, has handled hundreds of jury trials over the past 20 years and is "a nationally recognized judicial expert in matters of criminal law." He teaches widely, and would be only the second African American justice elected to the high court.

From across the state on the Democratic ballot, Allegheny County-based Superior Court Judge DEBRA M. TODD, 49, earned equal praise from the state bar, which noted her integrity, sense of fairness and "academic approach to decision-making and her thoughtful, thorough, scholarly opinions." A former corporate lawyer and daughter of a steelworker, Judge Todd has been on the appellate bench since 1999.

In the Republican primary, MICHAEL L. KRANCER, 49, former chief judge and chairman of the state's Environmental Hearing Board, offers a stellar academic and professional resume as a former big-firm litigator. The state bar lauds the veteran administrative judge from Montgomery County as "scholarly, thoughtful, hardworking and passionate about the law" - qualities that would serve him well on the high court.

Also on the Superior Court is Republican candidate MAUREEN LALLY-GREEN, credited with "outstanding" judicial temperament and impartial decision-making. In addition to serving as an appellate judge since 1998, Lally-Green, 57, earlier worked as researcher and legal consultant to two Supreme Court justices. She also served as a court-appointed member of several administrative committees, and teaches at Duquesne's law school.

Read the candidates' responses to a questionnaire at http://go.philly.com/judges.