County judges hoping to move up to Pennsylvania's busiest appellate court traditionally have had the edge over candidates who haven't already been fitted for judicial robes. As the reasoning goes, who better than an experienced judge to review decisions made by the lower courts? That work forms a large part of the caseload of the 15-member Superior Court, which handles most appeals of criminal and civil matters in the commonwealth.

But this fall's contest between a Pittsburgh-based judge and a Harrisburg corporate attorney offers other factors for voters to consider. In defeating a lower-court judge for the Democratic nomination last spring, Allegheny County Family Court Judge John T. McVay Jr. stood out for his judicial experience and earlier work as a government attorney. But McVay's current Republican opponent, Victor P. Stabile, highlights a gap in the judge's resumé. As noted by the Pennsylvania Bar Association, which gave both candidates a "recommended" rating, McVay offers "limited experience before the appellate courts."

A former counsel to the Allegheny County Housing Authority and assistant solicitor for both the county and Pittsburgh, McVay has the useful perspective of having presided over a trial court for six years. He's also well-regarded in the county's legal circles and, according to the state bar, "recognized for his diligence, excellent temperament, and willingness to employ unique solutions" in juvenile dependency, delinquency, and other family-law matters.

Stabile's credentials for the Superior Court are no less impressive, however. As the longtime head of the Harrisburg office of a Philadelphia-based law firm, Stabile was praised by the state bar for his "strong writing skills, administrative ability, and experience in handling cases in the appellate courts." In addition to dealing with a range of business-law matters, he has served as a litigator for the state attorney general, a clerk in the appellate courts, and an elected township supervisor in Cumberland County.

Most important, Stabile displays an enthusiasm for legal scholarship that spans a 30-year career, an impressive work ethic, and what the bar called a "passion for . . . public service." Despite being on the bench, McVay comes up somewhat short by comparison. On Nov. 5, voters would do well to elect VIC STABILE to the Superior Court.