Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Lehigh County Bar Rates Two Judicial Candidates "Unqualified"

Eight attorneys are in the hunt for three judicial vacancies in the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas. Today, Lehigh's County Bar Association has announced the results of its judicial selection committee's evaluations.


This committee reviewed candidate responses to a confidential questionnaire, comment from bar association members and interviewed each candidate. Its evaluations are a measure of a candidate's ability to serve as judge, and not a personal assessment.

Amazingly, the bar association has declared two candidates, Lee M. Koch and Joseph P. Maher as "Not Qualified." Koch's webpage reveals he is a very capable attorney, but his practice appears to be oriented towards Montgomery County. Joe Maher has practiced law for twenty-eight years, but his own divorce testimony claimed he only earned $26,000 per year from his law practice.

Tommaso V. Lonardo and Michele A. Varricchio are considered "Qualified." But only four lawyers get the "Well Qualified" rating. These are Jim Anthony (currently serving in Iraq), Glenn Clark (a former Assistant DA), Maria Dantos (First Assistant DA) and Dan McCarthy (a current Lehigh County Commissioner).

A link to these ratings can be found here.
Update: The Morning Call's account of these ratings, sheds light on why two attorneys have been rated as unqualified. As suggested in one of the comments to this post, Maher has been married three times and has had to defend against both mortgage foreclosures and protection-from-abuse petitions. Koch appears to be a talented attorney, but practices mainly in Montgomery County. Some commenters think that's an asset.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bernie...lets not forget Maher's two arrests. Spousal and child abuse, I believe?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon,

I am unaware of them. I usually shy away from the personal stuff. But not with a judicial candidate. If what you say is true, it is certainly relevant to someone who wants to be a judge. That could reflect on his judicial temperment and should be considered. I thought his testimony about earning $26k per year was ridiculously absurd.

Anonymous said...

I think that you are right on about them not liking anybody from outside the area. I read Koch's webpage too. Sounds like he got an old fashioned home schooling. Seems like he is very involved in Montgomery County and very involved in the community. The rating and his web page actually convince me that he just might be the ideal candidate to serve as judge. Sounds like he is not influenced by the usual suspects. Sounds like my kind of independent person.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon,

I've linked Koch's webpage and he's no slouch. I've never met him, but he seems like an outstanding lawyer. I think his "unqualified" rating probably has to do with not being familiar enough with Lehigh County. But I can see where you might regard that as an asset because he would resist the influence of LC lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

Sometimes, practicing law outside of the Lehigh County Bar may be a good thing. In Northampton County, it was refreshing to see Judge Isaac Garb. He is NOT a Northampton County Judge. He came from Bucks County and definitely marches to his own tune. I love it when he gets into an oral argument and plays devil's advocate with both the prosecution and the defense. The Northampton County lawyers were initially shook up from the business as usual approach. He was always fair and very competent. He was the administrative court Judge for Bucks County Juvenile Court. Having him was a godsend. I wish we had more like him. It's good to think outside the "box".

LVDem said...

interesting that nobody received the "exceptionally well-qualified" rating. Varracchio and McCarthy have my vote so far. Haven't decided on the other (probably clark). Will probably not be Dantos. She's nothing but a jim martin lacky. That's good to have for a DA's office, not for the bench.

Anonymous said...

I agree that McCarthy and Varricchio are great candidates. Varricchio only got rated qualified and she has been sitting as a judge for years. I think that shows the rating system used by the Lehigh Bar Association desrves to be given no credibility. Varricchio is extremely well qualified as is McCarthy. For my other choice, I am between Lonardo and Koch. I will probably pick Lonardo, but I have not yet decided. I agree that it can be refreshing to see someone from the outside share their experience.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 4:01 AM,

Man, are you an early riser!

Garb likes to work. He's smart. The proof of that is he consistently ruled against me during the bond litigation, although I did manage to get him reversed once on a Sunshine Act claim.

I respect the guy. He's one of the most impressive judges I've ever seen, but was impressive in BC, too. I remember my dad spoke highly of him at times when I was a kid. He didn't speak much about other judges.

Anonymous said...

My good friend is a retired attorney and I have heard him say many times how much he admires Judge Garb. He found Judge Garb to be the finest Judge he went before. He credits Judge Garb with having the strength to do the right thing regardless of the names of the attorneys on the cases. I agree that being from outside the area can be a real independent asset.

I do not claim to know much about those running for Judge in Lehigh County. But I do know that I am voting for independent thinkers who are not caught up in the system. Sounds to me like the Lehigh Bar is afraid that Koch is too indepenedent for their tastes and that means that he has my vote.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I understand your reasoning and can't argue with it. You're making too much sense so you must be wrong.

Anonymous said...

I've worked with all the candidates but Koch, so I won't speak to his credentials. I can say that Maher does not have judicial temperament, and that truly does make him unqualified. He was arrested and charged with assault on his then wife in 2005 (article in MCall archives from 7.20.05 notes that she had "severe bruising" around her neck when police arrived). The PFA was in 2000 with a different wife and step-daughter-no criminal charges for that incident. He has struggled to make a living as an attorney, so $26K is not absurd. It speaks to his abilities as well.

A good friend whose judment I trust (and an R too) tells me Anthony is a died in the wool misogynist, so I am hesitant to suggest he is a good choice. I do know he has an ego that may not be warranted, and would make him easily subject to the "black robe" syndrome many judges have.

The rest of the candidates are level-headed, and decent choices. Personally I like Varrichio, McCarthy and Clark, but if Dantos is chosen, that will be fine too. She was a public defender before she went to the DA's office, so she can be balanced.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I like Clark and McCarthy. What you say about Anthony scares the hell out of me. Dantos sounds better when you explain she spent time in thr PD office. That does give her some balance.

Anonymous said...

From Anon 4:01 am,

I worked in a law firm in Allentown, wherein, two attorneys became Judges (Arnold Rapoport and Hank Perkin), one is a master in Carbon County (Sam Feldman) and Glenn Clark had an independent practice upstairs. I have seen, firsthand, that each member were/would be outstanding jurists. Glenn Clark should be recommended as highly qualified. As a 1st ADA, he was a great leader within the DA's office. As a defense attorney, he is on par with the best. I am proud to know him as person and as a candidate.

By the way, I wake up in the middle of the night and I don't have anything else better to do but read your blog. I need a life.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 4:01,

Cheer up. Things could be much worse. You could be writing this blog at 4:01 instead of reading it.

LVDem said...

Koch has signs all over SW lehigh county saying he is the endorsed Republican candidate. Doesn't sound independant to me. Sounds like a partisan.