- Associated Press - Monday, November 2, 2015

Pennsylvania voters Tuesday will choose new justices to fill three open seats on the state Supreme Court, as well as one new judge each on the two mid-level appellate courts, Superior Court and Commonwealth Court.

All the candidates were interviewed and evaluated by a Pennsylvania Bar Association panel, which issued one of three ratings: “highly recommended,” ”recommended” or “not recommended.”

All Republican and Democratic candidates were nominated by party members in the May primary.

Snapshots of the candidates follow:

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SUPREME COURT

REPUBLICANS

ANNE COVEY: Covey has been a judge on the Commonwealth Court in Bucks County since 2012. Covey, 55, previously practiced law for more than 20 years, specializing in labor and employment cases, including a decade-long stint as a member of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. She’s the only candidate with a “not recommended” rating from the bar panel, which said she violated a pledge not to run misleading ads in her 2011 campaign.

MIKE GEORGE: George has spent his 30-year legal career in rural Adams County, where he has been a judge since 2002 and previously served as district attorney and as a private lawyer. In March, the 56-year-old emerged as the top Republican fundraiser, a distinction he retained for months, after a businessman friend contributed $500,000 to his campaign. He received a “recommended” rating from the bar panel.

JUDY OLSON: Before she became a judge on the Superior Court six years ago, Olson spent 24 years working for a succession of three Pittsburgh law firms at which she specialized in complex commercial litigation. Olson, 58, was appointed by Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell to fill a temporary vacancy on the Allegheny County Court in 2008 and elected to the appellate bench in 2009. She received a “highly recommended” rating from the bar panel.

DEMOCRATS

CHRISTINE DONOHUE: Donohue built a nearly three-decade career as a trial lawyer and litigator before she was elected to Superior Court in 2007. Donohue, 62, has served on the state panels that oversee misconduct allegations against judges and lawyers - the Judicial Conduct Board and Court of Judicial Discipline, which handle complaints against judges, and the Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Board, which handles complaints against lawyers. The bar panel awarded the Pittsburgh resident a “high recommended” rating.

KEVIN DOUGHERTY: A Philadelphia judge since 2001, Dougherty has devoted most of his judicial career to dealing with troubled juveniles and families in the family division. The Democrat was appointed to the bench by Republican Gov. Tom Ridge to fill a vacancy in 2001 and elected to the first of two 10-year terms later that year. Dougherty, 55, has been the campaign’s top fundraiser, thanks largely to heavy support from organized labor. The bar panel gave him a “recommended” rating.

DAVID WECHT: Wecht spent more than a decade in Allegheny County government before he was elected to the Superior Court in 2011. He served as the county’s elected register of wills and clerk of orphans’ court from 1998 to 2003 and then as a county judge. The 53-year-old son of nationally known pathologist Cyril Wecht says he’s the only candidate with a written plan for restoring integrity and ethics to the state’s high court. The bar panel rated Wecht “highly recommended.

INDEPENDENT

PAUL PANEPINTO: The Philadelphia judge is running for the state’s highest court as an independent this year after three failed attempts to climb the judicial ladder as a Republican. Panepinto, 66, who has been on the Philadelphia bench for 25 years, gathered more than 28,000 voters’ signatures to get his name on the general-election ballot. He received a “recommended” rating from the bar panel.

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SUPERIOR COURT

DEMOCRAT

ALICE BECK DUBOW: Dubow, 56, became a Philadelphia judge after a 23-year legal career that included jobs in private practice, city government and academia. The daughter of the first woman elected to Superior Court, Dubow was appointed to the Philadelphia bench by Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell in July 2007 and elected to a full term four months later. The bar panel awarded her a “recommended” rating.

REPUBLICAN

EMIL GIORDANO: A Northampton County judge since 2004, Giordano previously spent more than a decade in private law practice in Pennsylvania and also served as solicitor for several municipalities. Giordano, 55, who is serving his second 10-year term as a county judge, also serves as the administrative judge of the county orphans’ court. He received a “recommended” rating from the bar panel.

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COMMONWEALTH COURT

DEMOCRAT

MICHAEL WOJCIK: The Pittsburgh lawyer has been a litigator for 26 years, working for local governments and law firms of varying size. Wojcik, 51, spent eight years as Allegheny County solicitor, and he is solicitor for the Allegheny County Airport Authority. The ban panel gave him a “recommended” rating.

REPUBLICAN

PAUL LALLEY: Lally, 45, has worked for a Pittsburgh law firm for six years, specializing in labor and employment law. Previously, he worked for the general counsel of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, representing school districts and public school entities in employment matters. He was unopposed in the Republican primary. The bar panel awarded him a “recommended” rating.

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