Bar As­soc. rates po­ten­tial ju­di­cial can­di­dates

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Carl Hessler Jr. [email protected]­tu­ry­media.com @mont­co­court­news on Twit­ter

NOR­RIS­TOWN >> With three ju­di­cial seats on the Mont­gomery County Court of Com­mon Pleas up for grabs dur­ing this year’s elec­tions, 11 lawyers, po­ten­tial can­di­dates, have re­ceived “Highly Rec­om­mended” or “Rec­om­mended” rat­ings from the Mont­gomery Bar As­so­ci­a­tion.

The Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee of the Mont­gomery Bar As­so­ci­a­tion re­leased its list of rat­ings for po­ten­tial can­di­dates this week. This year, the can­di­dates were in­di­vid­u­ally in­ter­viewed and their qual­i­fi­ca­tions re­viewed by 27 mem­bers of the com­mit­tee, ac­cord­ing to Eric B. Smith, co-chair­man of the 34-mem­ber ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee.

Lawyers Daniel G. Ronca and Vir­gil B. Walker each re­ceived “Highly Rec­om­mended” rat­ings, the bar as­so­ci­a­tion an­nounc­ing they “pos­sess su­pe­rior qual­i­fi­ca­tions to serve with dis­tinc­tion” on the county bench.

“Each pos­sesses an ex­cep­tional level of in­tegrity, good moral char­ac­ter, in­dus­try, le­gal abil­ity and ex­pe­ri­ence, court­room ex­pe­ri­ence, and ju­di­cial tem­per­a­ment, to be rated as highly rec­om­mended,” the ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee wrote in a news re­lease an­nounc­ing the rat­ings.

A can­di­date may only earn the rat­ing of highly rec­om­mended if eighty per­cent or more of those mem­bers of the com­mit­tee cast­ing a bal­lot vote that can­di­date as “Highly Rec­om­mended,” Smith ex­plained.

The fol­low­ing lawyers re­ceived “Rec­om­mended” rat­ings: Jef­frey P. Bates; Christo­pher J. Cer­ski; Michael Dross­ner; Henry S. Hilles, III; Kather­ine E. McGill; Pa­trick J. Mo­ran; Nathan M. Mu­rawsky; Mary C. Pugh; and Melissa Schwartz-Ster­ling.

“Each pos­sesses the ap­pro­pri­ate lev­els of in­tegrity, good moral char­ac­ter, in­dus­try, le­gal abil­ity and ex­pe­ri­ence, court­room ex­pe­ri­ence, and ju­di­cial tem­per-

ament, to be rated as rec­om­mended. Each can­di­date has the le­gal ex­pe­ri­ence, com­mit­ment to jus­tice, the com­mu­nity and the prac­tice of law, to be rated as rec­om­mended by the com­mit­tee,” the ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee wrote.

Each can­di­date ini­tially an­swered a 42-ques­tion ques­tion­naire, pro­vid­ing a sum­mary of his or her le­gal ex­pe­ri­ence and back­ground, ac­cord­ing to Smith. The com­mit­tee then as­signed in­ves­ti­ga­tors who re­viewed the can­di­dates’ back­grounds, which may have in­cluded meet­ing with the can­di­dates, re­view­ing any dis­ci­plinary board records and in­ter­view­ing ref­er­ences.

Af­ter the com­mit­tee hearf from in­ves­ti­ga­tors, each can­di­date then ap­pearrf be­fore the full com­mit­tee

and was in­ter­viewed in­di­vid­u­ally.

Smith said the rat­ing cri­te­ria con­sid­ered for the can­di­dates in­clude: in­tegrity; good moral char­ac­ter; in­dus­try; le­gal abil­ity; rel­e­vant court­room ex­pe­ri­ence; and ju­di­cial tem­per­a­ment.

“These are the lead fac­tors,” Smith said.

Smith said the ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee is a self-gov­ern­ing, com­mit­tee charged with the obli­ga­tion to pass upon the qual­i­fi­ca­tions of ev­ery can­di­date for the of­fice

of county judge and to ad­vise the pub­lic ac­cord­ingly. The com­mit­tee is com­posed of the bar as­so­ci­a­tion’s ten most re­cent past-pres­i­dents as well as elected ro­tat­ing pan­els of 24 of the as­so­ci­a­tion’s mem­bers-at-large.

The com­mit­tee’s mem­bers are lawyers of di­verse back­ground, ages, prac­tices and geo­graphic ar­eas of Mont­gomery County and share nearly 1,000 years of col­lec­tive le­gal ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Our process is non-par­ti­san,” ex­plained Smith,

who co-chairs the com­mit­tee with lawyer Michael C. Shields.

The county’s po­lit­i­cal par­ties will an­nounce their own en­dorse­ments for the ju­di­cial seats later this year.

The Mont­gomery County Demo­cratic Com­mit­tee will hold its an­nual can­di­date en­dorse­ment con­ven­tion on Feb. 21.

The Mont­gomery County Repub­li­can Com­mit­tee will en­dorse a slate of can­di­dates dur­ing its con­ven­tion on March 14.

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