Common Pleas Judge David Wecht is making his second run for the Pennsylvania Superior Court, and has a far better chance of success than he had in 2001.
“I wasn’t a judge then, and it was a huge field. All seven Democratic candidates all lost, but I was closest,” he told the New Pittsburgh Courier editorial board on Oct. 19. “This time I am a judge, I have only one opponent, and he is not.”
Wecht’s Republican opponent is Harrisburg attorney Victor Stabile who has practiced law for more than 30 years and who also serves as a supervisor in Middlesex Township.
Wecht also points out that he has experience in all phases of the Common Pleas Court—criminal, civil, family and juvenile, and has initiated and enacted a “one judge, one family” reform that assigns all matters arising from one family, regardless of type, to a single judge.
“And that experience is important in this race because our Superior Court is the busiest intermediate appellate court in the country, hearing more than 8,000 cases a year,” he said. “The Supreme Court can refuse cases and Commonwealth Court only hears specific cases concerning government agencies, like election and utilities law. So for most people, Superior Court is the court of last resort.”
Wecht has also proposed a reform for Superior Court that could be approved whether he wins his race or not. It involves changing how rulings are delivered and is currently being studied.
“The vast majority of rulings are issued through ‘unpublished memorandum decisions.’ So, if you weren’t intimately involved with a case you’d never know of a ruling,” he said. “I propose that all rulings be placed online, even if it’s a two-paragraph note saying, ‘for the reasons stated in blah, blah, blah—affirmed.’”
Wecht has been rated as “highly recommended” by the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s judicial evaluation commission. Stabile received a “recommended” rating. Wecht notes that unlike his opponent, he has published several scholarly papers on law and has served as a faculty member at both the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University schools of law.
Then there are Wecht’s political motivations. The son of former Allegheny County Commissioner and Coroner Cyril Wecht, he notes that appellate judges are deciding matters that, increasing, legislatures cannot, or will not, address.
“Bush v. Gore was decided by a single vote. The Citizen’s United case allowing corporate campaign contributions was decided by a single vote,” he said. “I’m seeing a national Republican strategy to break unions and disenfranchise Black voters.”
Currently, Republicans hold 11 of Superior Court’s 15 seats. Superior Court judges serve 10-year terms and earn $178,914 per year. The general election will be held Nov. 8.
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