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Lawyer wants to put study of judges to use by sitting on bench

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Patrick Connelly of Shadyside is a candidate for Allegheny County Common Pleas judge. He has worked at the law firm of Summers, McDonnell, Hudock, Guthrie & Skeel for more than 18 years specializing in civil litigation.

Patrick Connelly

Age: 45

Residence: Shadyside

Family: Single

Education: Bachelor's degree, Boston College; law degree, West Virginia University

Background: With Summers, McDonnell, Hudock, Guthrie & Skeel law firm for 19 years, primarily in civil litigation; solicitor for St. Patrick's Day Parade; stepped down as chair of the Pittsburgh Ethics Hearing Board

County Bar Association rating: Recommended

Common Pleas judges serve 10-year terms and then face a yes-or-no retention vote. The salary this year is $173,271.

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Sunday, May 5, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

Patrick Connelly has watched judges in courtrooms from Erie to Harrisburg, thinking about how he could do it better from the bench.

“I believe in order to be a trial judge, you have to be a trial lawyer,” said Connelly, 45, of Shadyside, one of 13 people running for Allegheny County Common Pleas judge. “That's what I've been doing for 19 years all over Western Pennsylvania.”

Connelly mostly defends people who are sued. He touts his experience handling cases from initial pleas to appeals as a reason to choose him for one of four spots on the bench.

“I work six days a week,” he told the Tribune-Review. “I plan on being there for a long time.”

Connelly grew up in a large, Irish Catholic family in Duquesne and hasn't forgotten his roots. He is solicitor for the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade and handles legal issues for the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh.

“I had someone tell me, ‘You have a good name for the job,' ” Connelly said about a recent campaign event. “But I'd rather talk about my qualifications.”

On the issues:

What's the top issue facing the court? “In the Civil Division, there could be six judges who have seen your case by the time it goes to trial. In the smaller counties, it's easier to manage.”

How do you keep political donations by lawyers from affecting decisions from the bench? “I think I can say it won't affect me. I'm not keeping score. I haven't even counted the money from my fundraiser.”

Should judges hire family members? “I really would hate to say you can't hire somebody just because they're related to someone. But we're supposed to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.”

David Conti is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5802 or dconti@tribweb.com.

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