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Judge behind voter ID ruling hails from long line of lawyers prominent in region

| Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, 12:03 a.m.
Bernard L. McGinley is a judge of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court

Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley, the appellate court jurist who struck down Pennsylvania's Voter ID law on Friday, knows the power of the ballot box.

The 68-year-old Point Breeze Democrat, first elected an Allegheny County judge in 1981, won election to the statewide Commonwealth Court in 1987 by 4,874 votes, considered a razor-thin margin in a race where McGinley got 1,185,963 votes to opponent Robert Byer, who received 1,181,089. It was days before McGinley was declared the winner in the final count. But he wasn't worried, his older brother said.

“Back in the day, Barney was the most relaxed of all of us,” said Jack McGinley, a partner at Eckert Seamans in Pittsburgh.

Both brothers have children who have gone into the law. Several of their cousins — members of the Pittsburgh Steelers owners' Rooney family — are lawyers.

“We've got an army of lawyers,” Jack McGinley said.

Like Republican Gov. Tom Corbett of Shaler, who is weighing an appeal of the voter ID case, the McGinleys are longtime fixtures in the Western Pennsylvania legal community.

“We've known the governor for forever and a day,” Jack McGinley said.

A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, McGinley is known to friends as “Barney.” He began his career as a law clerk in Pittsburgh before becoming an Allegheny County assistant district attorney. He was in private practice from 1975 until 1981.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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