The ratings arm of the Philadelphia Bar Association has rated 13 Philadelphia judicial candidates as "not recommended."
Frank Bennett, Deborah D. Cianfrani, Conor Corcoran, Leon A. King II, Rania Major, Jon Marshall, John J. O’Connor Jr., Tracy B. Roman, Sean P. Stevens, 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, Corcoran, Henry Lewandowski and Roman were rated "not recommended" in their candidacies for Philadelphia Municipal Court.
The bar association’s Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention does not provide reasons for its ratings.
King, who said the bar association did not share its reasons for the rating with him, said he is a good attorney and a good administrator who received promotions within the city Law Department and a promotion from working as the general counsel for the Philadelphia Prison System to be the commissioner over the prison system.
Stevens, who also said the bar association did not share its reasons for the rating with him, said he believes the "length of term as an attorney may be one of the factors" leading to his "not recommended" rating.
Stevens, however, said that he has nine-and-a-half years of experience as an attorney, an LL.M. in trial advocacy from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and that he sits as a judge pro tem and as an arbitrator in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Stevens also said he has worked as an assistant district attorney for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, doing civil defense for insurance staff counsel offices, Law Offices of Twanda Turner-Hawkins and Robert J. Casey & Associates, and as an assistant city solicitor for the city Law Department.
The bar association states that it does not require at least 10 years of experience in order to rate candidates as "recommended."
The General Assembly hasn’t seen fit to establish a minimum amount of experience that attorneys need to have before running for judge, Stevens said, and "I feel like I have the legal experience necessary to become a successful judge here in Philadelphia."
O’Connor declined comment.
Lewandowski said that he thinks his "relative youth was the main concern" of the bar association, but that he views his "energy and my drive and my commitment to doing a good job and doing it well as an asset, not a detriment."
Lewandowski said he has been practicing law for 14 years, including subrogation, commercial and bad-faith insurance litigation. Lewandowski also has clerked for Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Ellen Ceisler and served as an arbitrator in the Court of Common Pleas. Lewandowski has his own practice with offices in Center City and South Philadelphia, is in-house counsel for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 98, and is of counsel at the law firm Sheridan & Murray.
Roman, the only other attorney who was newly rated as "not recommended," could not be reached for comment.
Giovanni Campbell, Derrick W. Coker, Anne Marie Coyle, James C. Crumlish, Joe Fernandes, Vince Giusini, Daine A. Grey Jr., Timika Lane, Daniel D. McCaffery, Kenneth J. Powell Jr., Stephanie M. Sawyer and Katie Scrivner were rated as "recommended" for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
Martin Coleman, Fernandes, Grey, Robert M. Kline and Fran Shields were rated as "recommended" for Philadelphia Municipal Court.
The executive committee of the Philadelphia Democratic Party has made recommendations for a Court of Common Pleas slate, including Lane, McCaffery, Campbell, Tancredi, King and Grey. Coleman, Lewandowski and Shields were endorsed as the Municipal Court slate.
In a previous story, Bennett said that he did not participate in the rating process because his understanding was that the bar association required at least 10 years of practicing law 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 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, and in a previous story, 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."