Who is Barney McGinley?
The League of Women Voters gives us some biographical information. A Pittsburgh native, Judge McGinley got a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1970. After that, he served in the reserves and was an assistant DA for four years. He also spent six years as a judge before being elected to the Commonwealth Court in 1988. He has been married to the same woman since 1973, and has never personally been involved in litigation. If retained, he will reach mandatory retirement age in 2016.
McGinley appears to be part of the Pittsburgh aristocracy. He is related to the Pittsburgh Steelers owners. He and his family even participate in debutante balls.
McGinley's Anti-Sports Rulings
Despite his strong ties to the Pittsburgh Steelers, McGinley has ruled against Pennsylvania's most revered sports hero - Coach Joe Paterno. McGinley is the jurist who ordered Penn State officials to disclose Papa Joe's salary. “Access to this information allows the public to meaningfully evaluate the wisdom and appropriateness of these state appropriations.” That decision has been appealed to the state high court.
Actually, McGinley's Penn State decision is designed to make state funded organizations more open and accountable to the public. It's the right call.
But he has another ruling that's just bizarre. It's a decision against baseball, and that's a little harder to forgive. Get a load of the facts of this case.
First, a family buys a house no more than twenty feet from the first base line of a baseball diamond. Then they decide to cut down trees along their property line, which acted as a natural barrier to keep baseballs in the park and out of their yard. Stunned by baseballs landing in their yard, this family sues to stop people from playing ball in the park.
Amazingly, they win. And when Eldred Borough appeals the decision, Judge McGinley rules against them! I believe this ruling is an unreasonable interpretation of a nuisance, and gives far too much deference to a family that should have foreseen that living in a home only twenty feet from a baseball diamond is going to present problems. I don't think Judge McGinley will get too many votes in Eldred, where people were quite irritated by a ruling that hurt baseball players of all ages.
That was just a bad call.
McGinley's Other Opinions are More Reasonable
Once you get McGinley away from the baseball diamond, his 210 reported online rulings are quite sound. In a well-reasoned decision, he struck down a "zero tolerance policy" that would have resulted in the expulsion of a straight "A" student caught with a small pen knife. He sustained an attorney's fee award against high power legal eagle John Karoly , in a dispute John had with South Whitehall Township. He wisely dissented from a ruling awarding $20,000 to a police officer who found that money in a bag during a routine traffic stop. I can't help feeling that a dirty cop will have all kinds of excuses to "find" money. McGinley also supported a strict reading of zoning law for residents who objected to a cell tower.
So long as you keep Judge McGinley away from anything to do with sports, he's a very clear and fair-minded judge. Lawyers who practice before him seem to like him. The Pa. bar makes this observation, "He treats lawyers fairly and courteously and is held in the highest regard for his legal knowledge and analytical abilities." I'll be voting to retain him, but I don't think he can count on too many votes in Eldred Borough.