|Panepinto Seeks To Bring His Independence To Supreme Court|
Panepinto Seeks To Bring His Independence To SC
JUDGE Paul Panepinto calls for justice above politics … an independent on the Supreme Court?
Judge Paul Panepinto believes the time has come to elect an independent Supreme Court justice in Pennsylvania. He is proposing himself.
A distinguished jurist with 24 years’ experience on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, including four years as Administrative Judge of Family Court, Judge Panepinto has run for statewide judicial office three times, most recently in the May 2015 primary – but always as a Republican. But he never got the state-party endorsement for Supreme Court.
“They told me, ‘We’re looking for three women,’” he said. (In fact, the party wound up endorsing two women, Superior Court Judge Judy Olson and Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey, along with Adams County President Judge Michael George, for three openings.)
Then what about Superior Court? He asked.
“But they chose someone from Northampton County, who had less experience and less history as Republican.” (That was Judge Emil Giordano.)
“I thought to myself, ‘You have to kiss the ring of the political powers. So in March I changed my registration to independent.
“But really, why does a judge have to be Democrat or Republican? People kept telling me I was onto something.”
Judge Panepinto believes he has tapped the spirit of the times. “My people are the grassroots people,” he said. “The people have said, ‘We’re sick and tired of politics.’ It’s the message out there nationally.”
There’s no disputing the judge has people in his camp. Although he needed 16,000 signatures to get on the ballot, he wound up with more than 30,000, gathered from 40 counties in Pennsylvania – quite a feat for someone without a party organization.
Three previous statewide races had built up Judge Panepinto’s connections. A lifelong member of South Philadelphia’s Italian American community he is well known in Sons of Italy lodges and in the Justinian Society.
In addition, he has ample credentials as a judicial leader. “The emphasis in my programs is solutions to problems. A lot of people have good ideas but can’t get them off the ground,” he explained. “I want to serve on the Supreme Court because it has the administrative power to get down and tackle social problems.”
As Administrative Judge, Panepinto initiated the truancy court as a better way to cope with issues of school absenteeism and petty delinquency. Its model has been adopted by other counties in Pennsylvania and across the USA.
“We worked with neglected and abused children who came into the court system and we helped to provide early and quick intervention, increase adoptions and provide permanent homes for our kids,” he said.
Judge Panepinto is admitted to practice before the US Supreme Court, He is an adjunct professor at Widener University. He has led the Complex Litigation Center, Civil Division in Common Pleas Court and has served on the State Court of Judicial Discipline. He has received numerous honors.
“The people look for rule-making authority,” Judge Panepinto asserted. “The rules we judges set matter – rules that would help the people.”
Odd-year statewide elections tend to be low-turnout affairs. So it won’t take a huge number of votes to become one of the top three finishers.
Panepinto is aiming for a strong turnout in Philadelphia, which has another native son, Judge Kevin Dougherty, on the ballot. It is terribly important for Philadelphians to have adequate representation on the Supreme Court, he emphasizes.
To win, though, he must persuade voters not to pull a straight party lever. But registered independents are already inclined to avoid that; and while they couldn’t vote in the primary, they can in the November general election.
Panepinto likes his odds. “The support I’ve gotten is overwhelming,” he said. “A lot of people were willing to accept the message: that we the people can pick the candidates. Why are we forced to accept the candidates thrown at us by political bosses?”
West, Tony. "Panepinto Seeks To Bring His Independence To SC" The Public Record. http://www.phillyrecord.com/2015/09/panepinto-seeks-to-bring-his-independence-to-sc/ (accessed September 14, 2015)