The ratings arm of the Philadelphia Bar Association has rated eight Philadelphia judicial candidates as "not recommended."
Frank Bennett, Deborah D. Cianfrani, Conor Corcoran, Rania Major, Jon Marshall, Sierra Thomas Street and Dawn M. Tancredi were rated as "not recommended" in their candidacies for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
Shoshana Bricklin, Bennett and Corcoran were rated "not recommended" in their candidacies for the Philadelphia Municipal Court.
The bar association’s Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention does not provide reasons for its ratings.
Bennett said that he did not participate in the rating process because his understanding was that the bar association requires at least 10 years of practicing law in order to rate candidates as "recommended." The bar association says that it does not require 10 years of experience in order to rate candidates as “recommended.”
Bennett has only been practicing law for eight years, he said. The bar association’s ratings process does result in good recommendations for judicial candidates, but it does not make any exceptions for an attorney’s experience, Bennett said.
Bennett said that he has handled over 2,000 cases, mainly in Municipal Court or family court.
Bennett, who has the number-seven ballot position for Municipal Court, said that Municipal Court is the people’s court in which people can litigate their claims for a low-cost rate and is the court where judges need to be "astute enough to see where people are coming from."
In contrast, Corcoran called the recommendation system a "complete farce." When he was interviewed by the commission’s representatives, Corcoran said he was asked what he would do to improve the judicial system, and Corcoran said that he suggested that judges should testify in front of the General Assembly to effect legislation. But he said his interviewers raised the issue that it could create a problem for separation of powers. Federal judges, however, testify in front of the U.S. Congress, Corcoran argued.
Corcoran, who has been practicing law for about 10 years, said that he is a trial lawyer doing mostly civil litigation with a speciality in copyright infringement. Corcoran also said that he represents musicians and does civil rights work. Corcoran said that he is running for judge because "the state of the bench is absolutely appalling from the Supreme Court all the way down to the Traffic Court."
Giovanni Campbell, James C. Crumlish, Daine A. Grey Jr., Chris Mallios, Daniel D. McCaffery, Kenneth J. Powell Jr., Stephanie M. Sawyer, Katie Scrivner and Fran Shields were rated as "recommended" for the Court of Common Pleas.
Martin Coleman, Grey, Mallios and Shields were rated as "recommended" for Municipal Court.
The policy committee of the Philadelphia Democratic Party has made recommendations for a slate, including Timika Lane, Street, Campbell, McCaffery, Tancredi and Roger Gordon, but there may be changes in the final slate endorsed by all the ward leaders making up the Democratic County Executive Committee.
For one, Gordon has withdrawn from the race. Another candidate who may be coming off the slate is Street after the Philadelphia Daily News reported last week about a police report indicating that Street’s 13-year-old son reported that he had been beaten by his mother. No charges were filed in the matter. U.S. Representative Bob Brady, the city’s Democratic chairman, told the Daily News he would look into the Street matter and possibly ask for a new name to endorse by the full committee.
The Democratic County Executive Committee is slated to make its final endorsements April 9.
Cianfrani, Major, Marshall, Street, Tancredi and Bricklin could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Kathleen D. Wilkinson said she hopes that both the executive committee and the voting members of the public take into account the bar association’s ratings.
The ratings are based on candidates’ legal ability, integrity, experience, temperament, community involvement and judgment, Wilkinson said.
The commission is nonpartisan, does interviews with candidates and others who know them, and also reviews candidates’ writing samples and legal research, Wilkinson said.