I thought the Bar Association could be counted on to insure a judicial candidate met minimum qualifications, but apparently not

I thought the Bar Association could be counted on to insure a judicial candidate met minimum qualifications, but apparently not.

I’ve never been a fan of electing judges, and sure don’t want Bob Brady deciding who gets to be a judge. However, I thought that at least we have the Bar Association to certify that the candidate has the minimum qualifications for the office. I had also assumed that the Bar Association could be counted on to certify that the candidate was of good character (at least no major scandals or ethics violations). I was wrong.

Just in case you missed it, a very troubling article about Judge Nocella appeared in Monday’s Inquirer at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/133784758.html?viewAll=y

Newly elected Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas M. Nocella credits U.S. Rep. Bob Brady - Philadelphia's Democratic Party boss - for intervening with ward leaders to put him on the ticket.

"He is the one in control," said Nocella, 67, rated qualified for the bench by the Philadelphia Bar Association, despite having been sanctioned by the city Ethics Commission in 2009.

He pointed out that he had done years of free legal work for the party and said the judgeship was his reward. "That's the way it's done in Pennsylvania," he said.

On Jan. 2, he will begin drawing a $165,000 judicial salary. Nocella welcomes the new income because there is a $358,000 IRS lien against him, the state says he ignored local taxes for years, and he has more than $1 million in debts listed in a bankruptcy case.

He is also embroiled in a Common Pleas Court lawsuit accusing him of fraud and deceit in 2005, when he helped sell off property for $507,500 that was owned by a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Manayunk.

Nocella was totally unapologetic about getting a judgeship as his reward for doing free legal work for the Party. No wonder so many young people today want nothing to do with electoral politics.

According to Nocella, “No one on the [Bar Association] panel asked him about the VFW lawsuit or about fines that he was forced to pay by the city Ethics Commission two years ago.” Were they asleep at the switch or did they just not care?

Nocella lost three primary elections, but despite these repeated rejections by the voters, Brady chose him to fill a last minute vacancy, thus making a total mockery of the democratic process.

I urge you to read the entire article and let Rudolph Garcia, the chancellor of the American Bar Association know what you think of his organization’s decision in this case. Americans for Democratic Action and the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women have written letters of protest and I expect other progressive organizations will as well.

What will it take to get citizens angry enough to demand change in the way we choose judges??

Bar Assoc. declared a number Obama’s nominees “not qualified,”

The American Bar Association has secretly declared a significant number of Obama’s potential judicial nominees “not qualified,” slowing White House efforts to fill vacant judgeships — and nearly all of the prospects given poor ratings were women or members of a minority group, according to interviews.

See http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/23/us/politics/screening-panel-rejects-ma...

This just increases my skepticism about the Bar Association’s biases-- although here the bias appears to be in favor of litigators.

The problem isn't the Bar

The problem isn't the Bar Association (though we may have issue with individual recommendations) it's the political process and the electorate's lack of interest in judicial candidates. The current system is a farce.

It's time for progressives to seriously consider the appointment process. Looking at New Jersey's process, which has produced a highly regarded judiciary, is a start.

Gaetano, I agree that

Gaetano, I agree that “it's time for progressives to seriously consider the appointment process.” But how do we organize this? I don’t know of any organization that is willing to make this a top priority and take the lead on this.

This may be one area where

This may be one area where progressives and other interests may be aligned. Time to see where progressives stand on this issue. I would check out the Pennsylvanians For Modern Courts' website.

I agree. It would require a

I agree. It would require a long, long, arduous change, but, this is beyond bad...

Change is hard.

I've heard.

But when things are this bad, you have to start somewhere. Anyone with a good idea for how to start the process -- and who wants a public forum for discussing it -- Philly For Change would be happy to host, I think.


Yes electing judges is terrible. But what is better?

Tom Nocella has been elected to his judgeship.

Previously Ed Rendell appointed him, twice, to judgeships.

Every time he was endorsed by the ABA.

If anyone knows how to reliably insure that only good people get on the bench, I'd like to know what it is.

And I also want to know whether such a process would lead to a judiciary as diverse as the one we have with the current process. For all its flaws, the process has given us black, white, latino, male, female, gay and straight judges as well as judges from diverse economic backgrounds. I wonder if states that appoint judges have such a good record of diversity.

The thing that appointing judges would do is take a good deal of money from the hands of ward leaders and the party. There are good and bad consequences of doing that as well.

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