Pa. Superior Court candidate accused of violating 'pledge' by running TV ad criticizing opponent

By Jon Campisi | Nov 4, 2013

Vic Stabile, a Harrisburg-area attorney running for an open seat on the

Vic Stabile, a Harrisburg-area attorney running for an open seat on the

state Superior Court, violated a judicial candidate’s pledge to refrain from making statements that could be subject to misinterpretation or distortion through one of his television campaign advertisements, the Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Campaign Advertising Committee announced late last week.

The appellate judge candidate ran a TV ad that violates the PBA Judicial Candidate’s Pledge that he signed last December, the organization stated.

Under judicial campaign advertising guidelines, those running for judgeships agree to a number of professional standards, including the promise to refrain from making statements that “might be subject to misinterpretation or distortion,” according to the PBA.

The guidelines also emphasize that if a violation occurs, the judicial candidate could be asked to amend the “problematic or offensive advertisement,” or withdraw the ad in its entirety.

The PBA said that while he has acknowledged receipt of the association’s requests, Stabile has yet to provide proof of compliance.

Meanwhile, the TV ad continues to run on local stations.

“Judicial campaigns are different from other political campaigns,” Richard M. Goldberg, chair of the PBA Judicial Campaign Advertising Committee, said in a statement. “Candidates running for judgeships must abide by the Code of Judicial Conduct, which prohibits candidates from making false or misleading statements about themselves or their opponents.”

The website PoliticsPA reported that the controversial ad in question involves claims made by Stabile that his opponent, Jack McVay, a Democratic Common Pleas Court Judge from Allegheny County, used his position on the bench to help secure jobs for his girlfriend and sister-in-law.

McVay claimed that the advertisement violated the campaign pledge signed by both he and his opponent.

Marty Marks, McVay’s campaign manager, told PoliticsPA that if Stabile is running a negative ad, “it must mean that he sees himself behind.

“We’re running a positive effort and it’s going to stay that way,” Marks stated.

Stabile told the Altoona Mirror on Friday that the ad was “accurate in every respect,” and said his goal was to draw attention to nepotism in the state’s judiciary.

He also told the newspaper that political speech is “one of the highest forms of protected speech under our constitution. The bar association should not be getting in the way of that constitutional right.”

The race for Superior Court judge is the only statewide judicial contest on the Tuesday ballot.

The ad in question ran on WTAE Channel 4, the ABC affiliate in Pittsburgh, which is home to McVay.

PoliticsPA, citing an FCC filing, reported that Stabile’s camp spent $38,000 to air the ad.

Goldberg, of the PBA JCAC, stated that under his group’s guidelines, if corrective action isn’t taken by the violating candidate in accordance with a timeframe set by the PBA JCAC, a public announcement concerning the noncompliance could be made.

The Superior Court is one of two intermediate appellate courts in Pennsylvania.

Its judges mostly handle appeals in civil and criminal cases from the state’s various Courts of Common Pleas.

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