Gov. Tom Corbett on Friday announced 11 nominees for vacant seats on common pleas courts across Pennsylvania.
The nominations announced Friday included four for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and one for the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. The administration also named two to serve on Philadelphia Municipal Court and one to serve as a magisterial district judge in Bucks County.
The nominees are set to carry out terms from their appointment until the 2015 judicial election.
In a press release Friday, Corbett said, “I understand the importance of an efficient judicial system. I am confident that these nominees will serve the commonwealth with honor and distinction.”
Corbett named Abbe F. Fletman, Kenneth J. Powell Jr., Michael Fanning and Vincent N. Melchiorre as nominees to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
Fletman, a Flaster Greenberg shareholder, focuses her practice on commercial litigation and complex litigation and commercial disputes; Powell formerly sat on the common pleas bench in Philadelphia; Fanning has experience as a Philadelphia Family Court custody master and is a former prosecutor; and Melchiorre focuses on personal injury, wrongful death and other civil litigation.
The sole Allegheny County nominee, William F. Ward, previously sat on the bench of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas family division.
The additional nominees for common pleas courts include: A. Joseph Antanavage for Berks County; Anthony D. Scanlon for Delaware County; Anthony J. Rosini for Northumberland County; George W. Wheeler for Tioga County; and Harry F. Smail Jr. and David A. Regoli for Westmoreland County.
Additionally, Corbett nominated Stephanie Sawyer and Roger F. Gordon for the Philadelphia Municipal Court bench and Regina M. Armitage for a Bucks County magisterial district judge position.
Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper said the judges would be a welcome addition to the Philadelphia court system.
“I think it’s certainly a great opportunity. We have enough work for additional judges,” Woods-Skipper said. “The governor appointed judges to fill [court] vacancies and that will help us be more efficient in moving cases through the system.”
Woods-Skipper said the judges would most likely be divided among the trial division and family court. She added that she did not yet know where each judge would go specifically, but added that their placement could cause “additional movements” from different court divisions.
Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor William P. Fedullo said the Philadelphia common pleas and municipal court nominees all received “recommended” ratings by the association’s judicial commission.
“They’re all good people,” Fedullo said. “We’re very happy that Gov. Corbett has nominated them.”
Fedullo also mentioned that the bar association was close to approving its new judicial rating system, which, in addition to the “not recommended” and “recommended” classes, will include a “highly recommended” rating.
“I think it will help the voters delineate between the very best of the candidates and the others who are recommended,” Fedullo said. “Our hope is that we get the same type of people that Corbett has nominated to the court … we didn’t have ‘highly recommended’ in the past, but I suspect a few of [the nominees] would have gotten it.”
As for the vacancy in Allegheny County, Fifth Judicial District Court Administrator Claire Capristo said, “We enjoyed having Judge Ward with us and we’ll be glad to have him back.”
Capristo said President Judge Jeffrey A. Manning has yet to determine where Ward would be assigned within the court.
Tom Loftus, director of marketing and media relations for the Allegheny County Bar Association, said Ward received a “highly recommended” rating from the organization.
“There obviously would not be any learning curve. He could just step in and fill the role of a judge,” Loftus said. “He’s very well-respected by the Allegheny County Bar Association.”
Pennsylvania Bar Association President Francis X. O’Connor praised Corbett for acting to fill the judicial vacancies.
“I think it’s commendable of the governor to recognize the need to fill these judicial vacancies,” O’Connor said. “The governor is saying that because justice is being delayed by the fact these vacancies are there, he’s deciding it’s important to be certain people are not denied the right to a timely trial.”