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Parties scramble to find candidates for state Superior Court |

Parties scramble to find candidates for state Superior Court

| Wednesday, August 22, 2007 12:00 a.m

An indicted judge’s decision to retire and abandon his retention bid has state political leaders scrambling to fill the ballot for Superior Court.

Both parties are likely to select nominees at state committee meetings on Sept. 8 in Harrisburg. The seat is up for grabs Nov. 6 because Superior Court Judge Michael T. Joyce said he will retire when his term expires in January.

Joyce, 58, a Republican from Erie, pleaded not guilty Monday to federal charges of mail fraud and money laundering. He is accused of bilking two insurance companies out of $440,000.

Democrats and Republicans will each get three nominees for Superior Court in a race in which the top three vote-getters are elected. Two candidates from each party already were nominated in the primary.

With Joyce’s seat coming open, Democrats could regain a majority on the 15-member appellate court, which now has eight Republican and seven Democratic judges. However, Democrats would have to win all three, because the other two positions on the ballot are seats being vacated by Democrats.

State GOP headquarters received several calls Tuesday from potential candidates, said Michael Barley, spokesman for the Republican State Committee.

“There is definitely some interest,” Barley said. “Our committee members are already starting to examine” prospective candidates.

“I’m sure there are conversations taking place right now,” said State Democratic Committee spokesman Abe Amoros. “It’s ultimately up to the state committee.”

The parties have a Sept. 17 deadline to file nominating papers.

In the primary, Republicans nominated Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Cheryl Lynn Allen and Dauphin County Judge Bruce Bratton. Democrats nominated Allegheny County Judge Ron Folino and Downtown lawyer Christine Donohue.

Murrysville attorney Jackie Shogan, an endorsed Republican who narrowly lost in the primary, is a likely candidate for the third GOP nomination, analysts say. Philadelphia Judge Paul Panepinto, who ran unsuccessfully for state Supreme Court in the primary, is another potential GOP contender.

Philadelphia Judge John M. Younge, the only Democrat running for Superior Court in the primary who received the state committee’s endorsement, is considered a likely candidate for the Democratic nomination.

The state Supreme Court yesterday assigned Senior Judge Fred P. Anthony to temporarily take over Joyce’s duties during his suspension. Anthony, 71, who spent more than three decades as an Erie County judge, will work out of Joyce’s chambers in Erie and begin his duties Monday, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

Superior Court judges make $163,342 a year.

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