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Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus Letter to Bar Association re Recommendation of Thomas Nocella
The Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus
135 S. 19th Street Suite 200
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103
December 9, 2011
Rudy Garcia, Chancellor
John Savoth, Chancellor Elect
Richard Seidel, Chair, Judicial Commission
Ken Shear, Phila. Bar Association
Re: Judicial Recommendations
I am the Chair of the Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus and the Chair of Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks. These are both organizations of citizens interested in local politics who try to make reasoned, educated decisions when they enter the voting booth. As such, we may interview certain candidates or hold open forums to explore candidates’ positions or demeanor. But as you know, this is extremely difficult when it comes to judicial candidates.
We are terribly concerned about how the Philadelphia Bar Association has been making determinations of recommendation for judicial candidates as many of our members attribute significance to the Bar’s conclusions. I understand that your explanation for the endorsement of Thomas Nocella in the recent general election was partly due to a short time to process his candidacy and partly because he had previously been recommended by the Bar when he ran previously. Both of those explanations are problematic. It would be better not to make a determination if your committee does not have sufficient time to do a proper consideration of the candidate’s qualifications. I would hope that you also would reconsider your policy that a recommendation stands for three years as new information is likely to prove fruitful in many situations. I also cannot understand how Mr. Nocella received a positive recommendation in 2009 when there was already substantial evidence of seriously inappropriate behavior by him that could have been uncovered by your committee.
Clearly there are many problems with our system of electing judges. No one knows many of the candidates, not even most attorneys. This increases citizens’ reliance on your organization’s judgments.
Representatives of the public interest organizations that engage in endorsements of candidates would like an opportunity to have a meeting with you to understand better how candidates are vetted and to brainstorm with you about amendments to your process that could serve in all of our interests. I would be happy to assist in convening such a meeting and look forward to hearing from you with potential dates to have it.
Gloria M. Gilman, Esq.