Speaking about her service as a Superior Court judge and her hope to become a state Supreme Court justice, Maureen Lally-Green's thoughts return over and over again to the people she serves.
Whether she's talking about the decisions the court renders for lawyers and litigants, or the image the judiciary projects to the public at large, her drive to run for Supreme Court is fueled by a simple desire to serve, she said.
Lally-Green is one of three Republicans seeking the party's nomination to run for two open seats on the court this year. Appointed to the Superior Court by Gov. Tom Ridge in 1998 and elected the following year, Lally-Green is the only Republican among three Superior Court judges seeking to step up to the high court.
In addition to her experience as a jurist, Lally-Green boasts experience in academia, securities law, private practice and as a litigator for one of Pittsburgh's industrial giants.
Lally-Green said her aim in running for the Supreme Court is to put her experience to work for the greater good.
"Being a judge and a justice, if that happens, I do want that to be understood that it is a great privilege and an obligation to serve in a way that benefits the public," she said.
The Making of a Lawyer
Lally-Green grew up in the small towns of Mercer County in western Pennsylvania. The daughter of a doctor and a nurse-turned-homemaker; Lally-Green was the eldest of eight children.
She attended high school in Hermitage, Pa., and went on to study at Duquesne University to be a high school mathematics teacher.
"I knew math, and the LSATs were, back then, pretty mathematics-focused, and I was helping out some of my friends," Lally-Green said of her unconventional first steps toward the legal profession. "One evening they convinced me to take it with them."
Lally-Green said she scored well on the LSAT, but it was Duquesne Law School graduate Carol Los Mansmann who provided Lally-Green's decisive push toward law school.
"She really encouraged me to go for it," she said of the woman who would later become a respected judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"We have a phrase, Double Duqer, meaning someone who went to Duquesne for undergraduate and law school," Lally Green said. "Carol was a double Duqer. I was a single Duqer at that point and she wanted me to be a Double Duqer."
Lally-Green said Mansmann remained a strong influence in her life until her death in 2002.
"Meeting Carol Mansmann was like meeting a person who had it all but never focused on herself. She had talent, she had personality, she had goodness, but she always cared about the other person," she said.
Upon graduating from Duquesne Law School in 1974, Lally-Green entered private practice briefly and then became counsel for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission performing rule enforcement review in Chicago and New York.
In 1978, Lally-Green was hired as counsel for the Westinghouse Electric Corp. and returned to Pittsburgh.
Working for Westinghouse, Lally-Green helped direct litigation as in-house counsel working closely with outside counsel. Among the cases she pursued was an antitrust claim against national uranium producers and defense of a counterclaim that Westinghouse had monopolized the market for nuclear steam supply systems.
"Those were years that were very intense, but good years because I learned a tremendous amount about litigation and the nuclear industry," Lally-Green said.
Lally-Green left Westinghouse in 1983, when her second child was born and family took center stage, she said.
"My husband and I made the decision that I was going to step away from the full-time work," Lally-Green said. "It was really different back then because you didn't really have part-time work. There was no telecommuting."
Lally-Green secured a part-time teaching position at Duquesne Law School and raised her children. She became a full-time professor in 1987 and entered the tenure track. In 1992, she obtained tenure and remains an adjunct professor today, having taught criminal law, labor law, appellate practice and procedure, and employment discrimination.
Lally-Green said she would have to consider whether to continue teaching as an adjunct if she is elected to the Supreme Court.
"I might not have the time if I were on the Supreme Court," she said.
Lally-Green said that her diverse legal experience is chief among the attributes she would bring to the Supreme Court. She noted her time on the Superior Court and appointments as a consultant to Chief Justice John P. Flaherty and Justice Nicholas P. Papadakos demonstrate a strong background in legal analysis.
"In doing this work of the Superior Court you have, by necessity, studied the Supreme Court," she said.
As a judge on the Superior Court, Lally-Green said she works to maintain focus on the end result of her work. She serves as a trustee for Auberle House in McKeesport, Pa., a home for delinquent and dependent children.
"Some of the things we do as a court, we affect people's lives, and it is good to have experience of the public we're affecting," she said.
Lally-Green said she finds most fulfilling the fact that she has the ability to make the law clearer in her work.
"It's fulfilling to be able to sometimes put clarity in to the laws so that people are better informed about what the law does and doesn't permit," she said.
"One of the things people don't often appreciate is that the Superior Court is the last word in about 93 percent of the cases in the commonwealth," Lally-Green said. "Every day when I go to work, I step back and I have to recognize how important this work is."
Lally-Green said she would apply the same discipline in reviewing records, analyzing law and writing opinions she applies as a Superior Court judge as a member of the Supreme Court.
Improving the Court
Lally-Green said she looks toward being part of the effort to improve the Supreme Court.
"There is, with any system - whether it be judicial, legislative, executive, public or private - there is always an opportunity for improvement," she said.
Lally-Green said the court must examine its process for granting allowances for appeal.
"Sometimes cases are dismissed as improvidently granted. Many in the legal profession are concerned about that," she said.
The court could improve its methods for screening cases for procedural error that would render them unfit for Supreme Court review, she said.
Lally-Green said she has learned a great deal as a member of the Supreme Court's Procedural Rules Committee.
"I am willing to hear what the complaints are and address them. We learn a lot by addressing the questions," Lally-Green said.
Lally-Green said she is also reminded of the court's duty to serve the people by the reaction to the 2005 judicial and legislative pay-raise affair.
Lally-Green said she's uncertain whether the pay raise will be an issue with voters, as it was in 2005, when former Justice Russell M. Nigro was denied a second term and former Justice Sandra Schultz Newman fought hard to keep hers.
Lally-Green said she decided not to keep her pay raise, donating it this year to the commonwealth's Children's Trust Fund for community-based services to children.
The reaction to the salary increase was intense in western Pennsylvania, she said, and her friends and neighbors weren't shy about sharing their thoughts.
"The real concern with the pay raise was the process. It was the no-hearing. It was what some people call the middle-of-the- night event. A lot of these things really sparked a furor," she said.
But overall, she found the public reaction to be a positive thing.
"I come away from the pay raise very humbled by the way that the public was concerned about process," she said. "Legislative process is contemplated by the Constitution, and the people really, really care about the Constitution."