Phila. attorney, Northampton Co. judge nominated by Obama to Eastern District of Pa.

President Obama has nominated a state trial judge from northeastern Pennsylvania and a Philadelphia attorney to two open seats on the federal judiciary. Edward G. Smith, a judge on the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas, and Gerald McHugh, Jr., an attorney practicing with Raynes McCarty, were tapped this week to fill vacancies on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Smith, who is based in Easton, and if confirmed by the United States Senate would sit at the Eastern District’s location in that city, has been a Northampton County Common Pleas Court judge since 2002, according to a professional biography. He had been elected to another 10-year term in a November 2011 retention vote. Smith handles both civil and criminal trials and is currently the presiding judge of the Asbestos Division in Northampton County and serves as a supervising judge of the county’s Grand Jury. Smith is also a 27-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, holding the rank of captain. The Pennsylvanian serves as a military trial judge presiding over military courts-martial at Navy and Marine Corps bases internationally. Smith, who obtained his law degree from the Dickinson School of Law, served a seven-month combat tour in Iraq back in 2007 and received the Bronze Star for his meritorious service, according to his biography. Prior to becoming a state trial court judge in Pennsylvania, Smith was a partner with the law firm DeRaymond & Smith. He also served as solicitor for both the Northampton County Industrial Development Authority and Upper Nazareth Township, and as assistant solicitor for Northampton County. Smith also worked as a special assistant attorney general for the commonwealth. McHugh, the other nominee, has been a partner at the Philadelphia office of Raynes McCarty since 2004, where he has focused his practice on complex civil litigation including medical malpractice, aviation disasters, civil rights, products liability and workplace accidents, according to a bio on the firm’s website. During his three-decade career in the legal profession, McHugh, who is a recognized authority on tort law, has since 2004 been recognized as a Top 10 Pennsylvania Super Lawyer. His bio says McHugh has secured seven-figure or higher recoveries for clients in civil cases. McHugh also co-authored the acclaimed legal text titled “Pennsylvania Torts: Law and Advocacy,” which the biography states is used as part of the Pennsylvania Practice series for attorneys. “He has set new precedents in the courts, including the right of a patient in a clinical trial to hold a hospital responsible for failing to inform of the risks,” the biography reads. “He also established a precedent that state agencies can be held liable for damages for wrongful death.” On three separate occasions, McHugh was appointed by the state Supreme Court to chair the Pennsylvania Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts Program, and he has served as president of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation and the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network. In a joint statement, U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey praised Obama’s decision to nominate Smith and McHugh to the federal bench in eastern Pennsylvania. “The selection of two well-qualified candidates demonstrates the strength and effectiveness of the Sen. Casey’s and my bipartisan system for selecting judges,” Toomey, a Republican, said in the statement. Toomey said the wealth of experience McHugh has gained during his three decades as a private practice lawyer would likely help him excel as a federal judge. “I look forward to him joining our other talented federal jurists in Philadelphia,” Toomey said. Casey, a Democrat, called McHugh an “excellent lawyer who has worked tirelessly for justice for all Pennsylvanians throughout his legal career.” Smith, Casey stated, has an “unparalleled record of service as a U.S. Navy JAG officer and a military judge. His service on the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas is universally respected and I hope that the Senate will quickly take up and confirm the nominations of these two capable and outstanding candidates.” Toomey said it would be nice to have a federal judge sitting in the Easton courthouse, which has been lacking a sitting federal jurist since 2004. Confirmation of Smith, the Pennsylvania senator said, would ensure that the residents of the northern Lehigh Valley “will once against have close, ready access to the federal judiciary.” Toomey called Smith a “dedicated, intelligent jurist and I am confident he will live up to the very highest standards.”

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