Big names support little-known Allegheny judge candidates
A Steelers favorite, a former mayor and the district attorney are among the famous faces involved in the race for five seats on the Allegheny County Common Pleas bench.
None is actually running for judge, though.
Some of the 15 candidates in the May 19 primary hope endorsements from the likes of Rocky Bleier and Sophie Masloff in local TV spots will separate them from the rest. Because beyond the big campaign signs, most candidates' names carry little recognition in these races.
"The truth is, that's the huge problem," said University of Pittsburgh law professor John Burkoff. "Voters should try and get as much information as they can about the candidates. The problem is in local elections the candidates don't have enough money to let you know everything about them."
Forest Hills District Judge Susan Evashavik DiLucente shows endorsements from Sen. Sean Logan and county Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty in her TV ad before it ends with its most famous face: former Pittsburgh Mayor Masloff, declaring, "I'm choosin' Judge Susan."
Attorney Michele Zappala Peck features a photo on her Web site of herself with her dad, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen Zappala, and her brother, District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.
Attorney Alex Bicket called on family friend and former Steelers halfback Bleier for help in his ads.
"I don't think of Rocky as an endorsement. I regard him as a friend who's helping the campaign," Bicket said. "People gravitate to him because he is so well-known and it's helpful because people know his story in the city."
Some candidates hope voters look beyond names, to experience.
"I'm a kid who grew up on Decatur Street in Manchester," said Judge Joe Williams, appointed in November to fill a vacancy. He must win a 10-year term to stay. "If your father's a judge, you're already starting on third base. My granddad was a janitor in this courthouse and cleaned the room I'm in now."
Attorney Phil Ignelzi said he doesn't know if an endorsement would help in an election he thinks will draw low turnout.
"Any little thing can make a difference," he said. "It's hard for the voters to get the information about the judges."
The 24-member Judiciary Committee of the Allegheny County Bar Association rated the candidates from "highly recommended" to "unqualified" based on interviews and other research. Committee members are elected by the association's 6,600 members.
The judicial candidates, with their ratings by the bar association:
• Carolyn Saldari Bengel, 42, of Harrison, district judge 16 years and former assistant public defender. Bar association rating: "not recommended at this time."
• Alex Bicket, 52, of Mt. Lebanon, partner in the firm Zimmer Kunz. A native of Cape Town, South Africa, and former high school teacher, Bicket is a 21-year trial lawyer who focuses on civil litigation. Bar rating: "highly recommended."
• Susan Evashavik DiLucente, 46, of Forest Hills, district judge for eight years. She has practiced as an attorney for 20 years in the firm of Evashavik & Evashavik with her father and two brothers. Bar rating: "recommended."
• Jeffrey K. Eisenberg, 48, of Point Breeze, attorney for 17 years, including the past five with the Juvenile Court Project, which often works as a parental advocate. Bar rating: "not recommended at this time."
• Phil Ignelzi, 52, of McCandless, former federal prosecutor. His firm Ogg Cordes Murphy and Ignelzi LLP focuses on medical malpractice cases. A lawyer for 28 years, he also handles white-collar criminal defense. Bar rating: "highly recommended."
• Arnie Klein, 47, of Upper St. Clair, attorney in the firm Bacharach & Klein who has worked in all court divisions, including federal court. Bar rating: "recommended."
• Joseph V. Luvara, 53, of Carnegie, lawyer since 1996 who works as federal mediator and owned a financial planning business. Bar rating: "unqualified."
• Michael F. Marmo, 54, of Ohio Township focuses on elder law, estates and trusts, real estate and municipal law, and has served on the Board of Viewers since 1995. Bar rating: "recommended."
• Hugh Fitzpatrick McGough, 53, of Shadyside spent two years with Ward McGough LLC in labor and employment law, municipal law and criminal defense. Worked as an assistant solicitor for Pittsburgh. Bar rating: "highly recommended."
• Michele Zappala Peck, 49, of Mt. Lebanon graduated from Duquesne University law school in 2003 and worked for the firm Hollinshead Mendelson Bresnahan and Nixon for four years before she was appointed to the Board of Viewers. Bar rating: "not recommended at this time."
• Jennifer Satler, 34, of Washington's Landing, criminal defense attorney, worked for the county Public Defender's Office for eight years after graduating from University of Pittsburgh law school in 2000. Bar rating: "unqualified."
• Michael S. Sherman, 46, of Ross, criminal defense attorney who worked as an attorney for the state police. Bar rating: "recommended."
• Don Walko, 56, of North Side, a state representative since 1995 and member of House Judiciary Committee since 1997. Bar rating: "not recommended at this time."
• Joe Williams, 57, of Penn Hills, criminal division judge since November who was in private practice 23 years. Bar rating: "highly recommended."
• Leah Williams-Duncan, 43, of Brighton Heights spent eights years as family court hearing officer. Bar rating: "recommended."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pitt offense eyes healthy balance
- West Mifflin inches closer to fix for collapsed culvert
- Flyers continue mastery of Penguins at Consol
- Amid struggles, top fiscal executive to leave EDMC
- McKeesport Area’s fitness efforts recognized
- Pittsburgh Ballet starts 45th season with classic ‘Sleeping Beauty’
- Florida fugitive nabbed in Pittsburgh-area homeless shelter
- Video recordings induce warm and fuzzy feelings known as ASMR
- Starkey: Century mark beckons for Ben
- Elizabeth Forward school board hears money issues
- Officials identify witness to Port Authority bus crash after releasing photo