Judges, The Campaign Trail And The Problems That Follow

By Matt Fair and Annie Pancak | November 7, 2019, 8:57 PM EST

In exclusive on-camera interviews with Law360 In-Depth, former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille and former Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Byer weigh in on the propriety of political rhetoric and how attorneys can use their knowledge of a judge's leanings to build a winning case.



Candidates in state and local judicial races in Pennsylvania are forced to run with political party designations to win seats on the bench, even as ethics rules largely bar them from taking public positions that could raise questions about their impartiality on issues likely to come before them in court.

These distinguished jurists, both experienced judicial campaigners, answer three questions aimed at addressing those potentially contradictory prerequisites.

Justice Castille retired from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in December 2014 after two decades on the bench. He previously served for six years as Philadelphia’s elected district attorney, and he ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 1991 when he was narrowly defeated in the Republican primary.

Byer, a partner at Duane Morris LLP, ran two unsuccessful campaigns for Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court — an intermediate appellate court handling administrative appeals and other matters involving state government — in 1987 and 1991. He served for about a year and a half on the court after being appointed by then-Gov. Bob Casey in 1990 to fill a vacancy on the bench.

Matt Fair is a Pennsylvania senior reporter for Law360. Follow him on Twitter. Annie Pancak is a data reporter for Law360. She last wrote about law firm donations to state judicial appellate elections. Follow her on Twitter. Additional reporting by Cara Bayles. Editing by Pamela Wilkinson and Haylee Pearl.