Within a matter of hours, the North Hills Black legal community became much higher profile as two of its residents have been pushed for consideration to take seats on the state’s highest court and the federal 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
Following Judge Michael Eakin’s March 15 announcement that he was resigning from the state Supreme Court amid the ongoing scandal over pornographic emails, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and county Democratic Party Chair Nancy Mills announced they were submitting Common Pleas Judge Dwayne Woodruff’s name to Governor Tom Wolf as a candidate to fill the seat.
“He’s been a terrific judge on Common Pleas Court and I think he’d be a great addition to the Supreme Court.” said Fitzgerald. “He’s well respected, has a solid reputation and he’s well liked in the community so I’m recommending that the Governor’s committee take a look at him.”
Woodruff told the New Pittsburgh Courier he is honored to be considered for the seat.
“Of course, I am honored by the confidence expressed in me by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in submitting my name to Governor Tom Wolf for appointment to the seat recently vacated on the PA Supreme Court,” he said. “Having served in the Court of Common Pleas for over a decade, following successful careers as a lawyer and a professional athlete, I am uniquely equipped to serve on our state’s highest appellate court. I would readily accept the appointment.”
Wolf spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan declined comment on how many recommendations to fill the vacancy had been received, and on what Wolf’s criteria would be.
“Governor Wolf has great respect for County Executive Fitzgerald and Nancy Mills, and their recommendation will absolutely be taken into consideration,” he said. “The governor will nominate an individual in due time, and he looks forward to the Senate providing advice and consent regarding his nomination.
Should Woodruff be nominated and confirmed, he would serve the remaining portion of Eakin’s term and run to retain the seat in 2017. Fitzgerald and Mills have pledged their support to that campaign as well.
Woodruff campaigned for a high court seat last year when six Democrats and six Republicans clashed in the primary election for the court’s three vacancies. He did not, however, win enough votes to continue in the general election.
In contrast, attorney Rebecca Ross Haywood has never run to be a judge—but she clerked for one, U.S. District Judge Alan Bloch, after graduating from University of Michigan Law School in 1994. Since then, other than spending a year with the firm of Jones Day, Haywood has served as an assistant U.S. attorney. In 2010, she was promoted to chief of the appellate division for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Pennsylvania.
Later in the day, March 15 President Barrack Obama nominated Haywood to fill the vacancy left by Judge Marjorie Rendell, wife of former Gov. Ed Rendell, who took senior status in July.
“Throughout her career, Rebecca Ross Haywood has shown unwavering integrity and an outstanding commitment to public service,” Obama said in a statement. “I am proud to nominate her to serve on the United States Court of Appeals.”
Should she be confirmed, she would be the first Black woman to serve on the appellate court.
David Hickton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania called Haywood “an exceptional nomination.”
“Rebecca Ross Haywood is a lawyer of unparalleled legal ability and judgment,” he said. “She is also a wonderful person. She will make an outstanding judge.”
Originally from McKeesport, Haywood attended Elizabeth Forward High School before earning an undergraduate degree in economics from Princeton University.