The following is my response to the Delco Times regarding declining to participate in the Delco Bar Association Plebiscite.
I declined to participate in a plebiscite process that, in the past, has advised voters incorrectly as to the qualifications of judicial candidates; I prefer to allow my credentials and experience, both as a practitioner and arbitrator, to be the best guide to voters as to my qualifications to serve as a judge in their court.
May 1, 2017
Hi Kevin. Thanks for reaching out about the Delco Bar Association’s plebiscite. I am aware that, when prior Democratic candidates for judicial office in Delaware County participated in the plebiscite process, the majority of the bar association members did not endorse those candidates as qualified to hold a judicial position, despite credentials to the contrary. Even a cursory review of those candidates’ actual qualifications suggests that they were exceptionally qualified to serve as a judge. For example, prior to joining the faculty at Villanova Law School, Steve Chanenson served as a judicial law clerk in both the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and for United States Supreme Court Justices William Brennan and David Souter; thereafter, he practiced at the distinguished law firm of Jenner & Block and then served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. It is puzzling to me how that kind of background can support the result reached by bar association members (significantly more than half of whom gave him either a “not recommended” or a “no opinion as to qualifications” rating), unless the members reviewing those qualifications gave more weight to local political involvement and discounted Professor Chanenson’s significant practical, legal, and judicial experience.
As members of the trial court of the state court judicial system, judges play important roles; they do real work that directly impacts the lives and livelihood of the people of this County. In my opinion, candidates for this important office should bring to the table significant experience in the practice of law, a demonstrated ability to be impartial and act independent of politics and special interests, so that they can apply the law fairly to all parties who come to the court. The plebiscite process, as it seems to have been applied in the past, seems to favor local popularity among bar association members. This is unfortunate (and also different than how bar associations like the American Bar Association, Pennsylvania Bar Association, and Philadelphia Bar Association, conduct their assessments of judicial candidates). My candidacy for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas is founded not on who I know in the area—and over the course of 17 years, I have gotten to know many members of the community, lawyers and non-lawyers alike—but on my significant experience, both as a litigator (representing both plaintiffs and defendants) over the course of the past 20 years in courts throughout the country, and as an arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association. As an arbitrator, I routinely hear and decide cases, giving all parties full and fair hearings and then applying the relevant law to reach decisions and issue rulings and awards, sometimes as a single arbitrator, sometimes on panels of arbitrators, and sometimes as chair of panels of arbitrators, but always with the goal of giving all parties—regardless of background or representation—fair and impartial hearings to reach a just result. It is all of this experience that I believe makes me uniquely qualified to serve all of the citizens of Delaware County, regardless of their background or affiliation, to carry out justice in our court. I declined to participate in a plebiscite process that, in the past, has advised voters incorrectly as to the qualifications of judicial candidates; I prefer to allow my credentials and experience, both as a practitioner and arbitrator, to be the best guide to voters as to my qualifications to serve as a judge in their court.
I appreciate your reaching out.
Paid for and authorized by the Committee to Elect Kelly Eckel