Widener Law’s Harrisburg campus held a statewide forum on Friday, October 14th between the two candidates for Pennsylvania Superior Court, Judge David Wecht of Allegheny County, the Democratic candidate, and Republican attorney Vic Stabile of Cumberland County.
During hour-long forum, each candidate answered questions posed by Professor John L. Gedid
and Capitolwire reporter Peter DeCoursey. Harrisburg Campus Vice Dean Robyn L. Meadows
offered a welcome and introduction, calling the forum a service to the public to help voters learn about the candidates for the Superior Court. Student Matthew Dorry served as timekeeper for the event.
Professor Gedid first asked the candidates to enumerate the qualities that distinguish the best judges and then talk about what moments in their careers demonstrate that they have those qualities. Mr. Stabile explained that the most important quality is humility, saying, “A judge needs to understand that when someone is standing in front of you – that may be the most important case of their life.”
Judge Wecht indicated that while humility was important, other qualities such as fairness, integrity, balance, patience, and a deep, abiding love for the law were just as important.
Mr. DeCoursey asked the candidates to tell him about a case that people would say, “That’s why I voted for you.” Judge Wecht shared an experience he had in family court where a child was separated from her mother because of substance abuse. The mother had a mixed record and the child had been taken away and placed in foster care. During the case, the mother had made substantial progress so he had decided not to terminate her parental rights. He heard from her a little while after the case and was told things were going well. Because he did not terminate her parental rights, the child was able to grow up with her mother.
Mr. Stabile shared a pro bono case he had taken. He explained that a man who died for his country while serving in the Air Force would have received a bonus had he not passed away. Unfortunately, they would not release the bonus money to his widow. Mr. Stabile took the case and did not give up until a law was actually passed which allowed the women to receive the bonus. He explained that he is willing to go to great lengths to help people.
The candidates were also asked questions about the role of a judge in interpreting legislation and what would they like to see be done by the Superior Court. Following the questions from the moderators, the candidates had the opportunity to pose questions to each other. The only question that Judge Wecht asked his opponent was whether he was a Steelers fan or an Eagles fan. Mr. Stabile answered that he was a Steelers fan, but he joked that he knew he would lose half the state with that answer.