By Leo Strupczewski
Of the Legal Staff
When Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Teresa Sarmina withdrew from the state Supreme Court race in the interest of party unity this March, Democratic leaders said the judge had gained the party’s goodwill.
It seems as if the move has already paid off.
The Pennsylvania Democratic Party announced over the weekend that it unanimously nominated Sarmina to fill a slot on the November ballot created by the resignation of Superior Court Judge Maureen Lally-Green.
Sarmina, a criminal court judge in Philadelphia, joins fellow Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Anne Lazarus, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Robert Colville and Allegheny County Assistant District Attorney Kevin McCarthy on the party’s Superior Court ticket.
Lehigh County Judge Carol McGinley, Washington County Common Pleas President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca and Philadelphia Common Pleas Judges James Murray Lynn and Paula A. Patrick were also candidates for the nomination.
Earlier in August, the state GOP announced Chester Common Pleas President Judge Paula Francisco Ott will be that party’s fourth candidate. She joins the Republican Superior Court ticket of Allegheny Common Pleas Judge Judy Olson and attorneys Sally Updyke Mundy and Temp Smith.
Lally-Green announced in June that she would resign from her seat on the Superior Court bench to take a position as a community outreach representative with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.
In January, while still on the Supreme Court ballot, Sarmina received a "highly recommended" rating from the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Judicial Evaluation Commission.
The commission noted the judge’s "exceptional skills, experience and commendable personal qualities," along with her experience handling major criminal cases, including homicides. If elected, Sarmina would become the first Hispanic woman to hold a seat on the Superior Court and would be the first Hispanic elected to statewide office in Pennsylvania.
"She writes with a clear and precise style, and her opinions are well-reasoned and seldom reversed," the commission wrote. "She has earned the respect of her colleagues on the bench and of the lawyers who have appeared before her. Her integrity and sound judicial temperament are unchallenged."
Sarmina was elected to the bench in 1997 and retained in 2007.
The judge earned her law degree from Georgetown University. She has worked as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, a senior deputy state attorney general and general counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs under President Bill Clinton.
"It is truly humbling to be entrusted with the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge and a moment of great significance for all Hispanic American voters in Pennsylvania, witnessing the first time a candidate of Hispanic American heritage has been nominated for statewide office," Sarmina said in a press release. "If the voters honor me with their confidence, I will bring all that I have learned throughout my career as a criminal prosecutor and a Philadelphia homicide judge to the Superior Court and work every day to make our streets and families safer and ensure that everyone has equal access to justice and fairness in Pennsylvania courts."