Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell told a sold-out crowd of young lawyers mingling in the lounge setting of G that the fresh push for the appointment of appellate judges is needed because the state’s elected system of judges is a terrible system for diversity.
“Look at Darnell Jones,” Rendell said, referring to Philadelphia Common Pleas President Judge C. Darnell Jones II’s unsuccessful shot last year at the state Supreme Court during the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division annual meeting Tuesday at the bar and mingling space below Davio’s on S. 17th Street.
An appointed system is also needed, Rendell said, because judicial candidates shouldn’t have to raise money from lawyers or potential litigants like the Chamber of Commerce or the AFL-CIO. Legislation was introduced this week in the General Assembly to abolish the election of appellate judges in favor of nominations by a citizen commission, appointments by the governor and confirmations by the Senate.
Rendell said that the merit selection proposal might not get far in Harrisburg’s political climes. But this proposal has one political survival skill: it’s key that voter enfranchisement would not being taken away regarding common pleas and other local judges because in the commonwealth’s rural counties -- unlike in Philadelphia -- candidates for that level of judge are well-known to voters and voters are invested in selecting judges, Rendell said.
Rendell took questions from the audience in lieu of giving a speech as the keynote speaker.
In response to one presidential race question, Rendell, an outspoken backer of U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential nominee race, said that Clinton would win the Pennsylvania primary, but the “only question is what the margin will be.”
He said he believes U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, Clinton’s opponent, will be damaged if Clinton wins Pennsylvania by 14-17 points, but won’t be too damaged if Clinton only wins by 10 points or less.
He said that no matter who wins the Democratic Party nominee contest, that after three debates with Republican presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain, “Senator Obama is going to be president or Senator Clinton is going to be president.”
Once Rendell leaves the governor’s mansion, he said in one answer, he would increase his teaching load, do foundation work, join a law firm as of counsel to advise clients on whom to go see in the government for their particular issues and write a book.
He said he thought he might title the book: “Life in Politics: You Can’t Make This Shit Up.”
Tuesday night’s event sold-out with 250 tickets, event organizers said.
Scott P. Sigman, an associate at Bochetto & Lentz, received the leadership gavel from outgoing chair Alan Nochumson. Sigman said his goals for the YLD this year echoes Mayor Michael Nutter’s goals of improving the city’s crime rates and public education system.
Earlier in the meeting, the YLD gave out three awards.
DaQuana L. Carter, an associate at Pepper Hamilton, received the Craig M. Perry Service Award, which is given to a young lawyer who has devoted substantial time and energy to community-oriented activities. Carter, the president-elect for the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia and a graduate of Villanova University, mentors a Villanova minority law school student each year, serves as secretary of the Villanova Alumni Minority Society Board and is an active member of her firm’s pro bono committee.
Maria A. Feeley, a partner at Pepper Hamilton, received the F. Sean Peretta Service Award, which is given to a member of the legal community for exceptional community service. Last year, Feeley co-chaired the Women in the Profession committee of the bar association, which established a new call to action and best practices to increase the retention and promotion of women in the legal field. Feeley is a new member of the Board of Governors.
Law firm Dechert received the YLD Vision Award, which is given to an organization that has provided support to the YLD in fulfillment of its mission. Dechert sponsored the YLD holiday party in 2006 and 2007.
-- Amaris Elliott-Engel, staff reporter