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It's Melvin vs. Panella for state Supreme Court

| Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Superior Court Judge Joan Orie Melvin won a three-way race to become the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania Supreme Court with 57 percent of the vote, and 63 percent of precincts reporting.

Melvin, 53, of Marshall will take on Democrat Jack Panella, 54, of Northampton County in November, a Superior Court judge who ran unopposed. Melvin and Panella are vying to replace Justice Jane Cutler Greenspan, whom Gov. Ed Rendell appointed in 2008.

Superior Court candidates Robert J. Colville of Ross, Kevin Francis McCarthy of Dormont and Anne E. Lazarus of Philadelphia were leading the race for the Democratic nomination. Three seats are open on the court. All three Republican candidates -- Judy Olson of Franklin Park, Sallie Mundy of Tioga and Temp Smith of Mt. Lebanon -- will be on the November ballot.

For two Commonwealth Court seats, Democrats Barbara Behrend Ernsberger and Linda Judson were leading a six-candidate field with 22 percent and 21 percent of the vote, respectively. Leading the three-candidate Republican field were Patricia McCullough of Upper St. Clair with 39 percent, and Kevin Brobson of Harrisburg with 33 percent.

"My message has been about reform and accountability, and I think that really resonated with the voters," Melvin said. "People don't want (the judiciary) to be the stealth branch of government. They want accountability in all branches of government."

Melvin, who lost a 2003 Supreme Court race, is the sister of state Senate Minority Whip Jane Orie, R-McCandless. In 2006 she gained notoriety by trying to refuse her portion of a controversial pay raise.

Panella received more than 250,000 votes.

Supreme Court justices' 2009 salary is $186,450. Superior Court and Commonwealth Court judges are paid $175,923 a year.

Lazarus, a Common Pleas judge, was leading the Democratic primary for Superior Court with 19 percent of the vote.

"For 99 percent of the cases, the buck stops with the Superior Court," Lazarus said. "You don't have a right to have your case heard by the Supreme Court. But for every family law case, every criminal case, every personal injury case, if you ... feel that the trial judge did not do something right, you have an absolute right to have that case reviewed by the Superior Court."

Colville, 43, had 22 percent of the vote. He has been an Allegheny County Common Pleas Court judge since 2000.

McCarthy, 47, had 20 percent of the vote. He has worked as a prosecutor in the Allegheny County District Attorney's office since 1990. He has argued 150 cases before the Superior Court, according to his campaign.

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