Highly Qualified Pa. Judicial Candidates in 2017

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Statue of justiceOn November 7, registered voters in Pennsylvania can vote for state judicial candidates. In this 2017 election, voters will elect judges for one seat on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, four seats on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and two seats on the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. Is this important? You bet it is. These are the men and women who will decide cases that will affect us for years to come.  The judges we elect will stay on the bench for at least ten years and decide hundreds of cases on appeal. These appellate courts have the final say in deciding and interpreting Pennsylvania laws and the outcome of cases.

By now you have probably received campaign advertisements in the mail like the one I got today telling me to “Vote for Judges Who Share Our Values and Stand for the Flag.” I am not sure what that means but I am told that the candidates listed are “experienced” and have the “highest ability, ethical standards & integrity.” How do we know who is qualified to make important decisions interpreting laws and impacting people’s lives?

One of the best ways is the evaluations published by the Pennsylvania Bar Association which has no political affiliation. The Pa. Bar Association selects a Judicial Evaluation Commission to evaluate and report on the qualifications of judicial candidates for the Pa. courts of appeal.  The Commission consists of lawyers and non-lawyers from across the Commonwealth. According to the Commission Chairman, Robert F. Morris, “the Commission only recommends potential candidates who have the legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament to provide satisfactory or outstanding performance as appellate judges and justices.”

Here is the link to the Commission’s report which rates the candidates as highly qualified, qualified or unqualified. Any candidate that did not request evaluation by the Commission is not listed. Also, the report on the judges who are already serving but are up for retention has not yet been published. Take just a few minutes and you will see all of the ratings. In 30 minutes you can read the evaluations and understand why the candidates received those ratings. It is important information and time well spent.

On the campaign flyer I received one superior court judge candidate I was urged to vote for was Mary Murray who has not been rated. I suspect the reason why she did not volunteer for a rating is that she only has judicial experience as a district justice  in what is known as small claims or majestrate court. She has never even served as a county court judge and now she seeks to be elected to the Pa. Superior Court. That’s the problem with campaign literature, its primary focus is political, not accurate information.

Don’t forget to vote on November 7.

 

 

 

Pottsgove HS Reuniting for a Night.

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falcon at sunset

What caught my attention most about the 2017 reunion of the Pottsgrove High School classes of 1969, 1970 and 1971 was what people wore.

Most wore smiles as they engaged classmates from two score plus years ago.

Many wore the wrinkles earned by sixty somethings, while some wore only a few lines hiding their age well.

World travelers had feet well-worn from thousands of miles.

Retirement fit some like well-worn shoes while others weren’t buying and a few had tried it on and returned it.

We wore glasses for well-worn eyes which have seen beauty and ugliness in the world.

Some bore physical scars from sports, mishaps, surgeries and others invisible scars because people can be cruel.

Hair was worn by all, just not the same way as 45+ years ago.

I envisioned hands bearing callouses but saw no evidence of calloused hearts from those who had spent a life of serving and caring for others.

Grandparents displayed joy and some a little wear and tear.

Serious disease, for some, had been stripped off and tossed into the corner baring a passion for life others did not yet know.

Memories of the best of times seemed none the worse for wear and old wounds were well wrapped for the night.

Those I had a chance to see wore their lives well.

Sadly, there was not time enough to learn what everyone wore.

I hope the next time we meet others I have not seen since the days of maroon and white can come. The old PHS dress code does not apply.

 

What Was Your Vietnam War Experience?

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Vietnam Memorial.canstockphoto8705896

The encounter took place in the fall of 1970. I was a freshman at Villanova University. Back then VU mainly attracted students from the Mid-Atlantic and New England states. Many students lived locally and commuted. There was a small population of students from other states and countries. VU was and is a Catholic university.  Most of us were from white, middle class, suburban families.

On the other side of the world, the Vietnam War was still raging. The majority of public sentiment had shifted against continuing the war but there were very strong, different opinions about how and when to end the U.S involvement.

Students had been actively, sometimes violently, protesting at many colleges.  At times the protestors were violently disbursed.  On May 4, 1970, four student protesters were shot and killed at Kent State University by Ohio National Guardsmen. The vast majority of Villanova students were not actively protesting the war in the fall of 1970.

One night I was sitting with some new friends in the dorm having a wide-ranging conversation when someone expressed an opinion that the war never had a justifiable purpose.  A friend I will call Paul took serious issue with this and dropped a verbal bombshell.  His older brother had been a soldier who was killed in Vietnam.  Like most, his brother was a very young man when he died. Just like a bomb explosion, Paul’s words created both a blast wave hitting us with force and a blast wind sucking the air out of the room.

Based on the news I heard and read I thought the war was wrong.  Paul, who shared many of my views, had a very different opinion about the Vietnam War. The big difference between us on this issue was his personal experience – the loss of his brother. All I could think to offer was a sincere, I’m sorry.

The deaths, injuries and psychological trauma from the war which I read about and saw on the news were jarring. By the end of the war in 1975 over 50,000 U.S. soldiers and advisors had been killed and hundreds of thousands physically wounded or psychologically damaged.  It is estimated that between two and three million Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians had been killed.  Layered on top was the civil unrest and societal fissures that split our country. The era of absolute trust in the government had come to an end as the American people learned that our government had been lying and hiding information about the war for years beginning in the Kennedy administration.

I am fortunate that I did not have any first-hand experience with the Vietnam War.  My second-hand experiences made me more sceptical of people in power, both civilian and military. I learned that those of us who did not serve in the war were in no position to judge those who did. I do believe the Vietnam War affected every American in some way. What was your experience?