Stabile wins Pa. Superior Court seat, Gantman and Panella retained for new terms

By Jon Campisi | Nov 7, 2013

A last-minute roadblock over a controversial campaign ad turned out to be

a minor hurdle, if a hurdle at all, in the race for the only statewide position on Tuesday’s election ballot.

Vic Stabile, a lawyer from the Harrisburg area, appears to have secured a spot on the Pennsylvania Superior Court, one of two intermediate appellate benches that hear appeals in civil and criminal cases from trial courts across the state.

State election results last updated late Wednesday morning show that

Stabile garnered 826,985 votes to opponent Jack McVay’s 774,141 votes.

Stabile had been called out by the Pennsylvania Bar Association last week over allegations that he broke a pledge not to put out a campaign advertisement that contained information that could be misinterpreted.

The television ad had accused McVay, a judge on the Allegheny County

Common Pleas Court, of using his judicial position to help secure jobs for his girlfriend and sister-in-law.

McVay claimed that the advertisement violated the PBA Judicial Candidate’s Pledge that both men signed late last year in which candidates for the judiciary agree to refrain from making statements that “might be subject to misinterpretation or distortion.”

Stabile had told the Altoona Mirror that the ad was “accurate in every respect,” and that his goal was to draw attention to the problem of nepotism in the judiciary.

The controversy, however, appears moot now, given that Stabile appears to be the winner, garnering 51.65 percent of the vote.

Stabile, 56, a native of Cumberland County who works as a partner in the Harrisburg office of the Dilworth Paxson law firm, was quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Wednesday as saying he put “everything I had” into the race for Superior Court judge, and that he tried to “let people know what my candidacy was about.”

McVay, who some believed would have had the upper hand because he is already a sitting judge, unlike Stabile, told the western Pennsylvania newspaper that he was proud of the campaign he ran.

“I think we knew that it might be an uphill fight in the fall, and it was,” McVay, a Democrat, reportedly said.

Stabile, a Republican, will take over a Superior Court seat left vacant when former President Judge Correale Stevens was tapped for a spot on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after former Justice Joan Orie Melvin left the bench while being tried on campaign corruption charges.

Orie Melvin was subsequently convicted of using her then-Superior Court staff to work on her campaign for a seat on the high court.

According to his professional biography, Stabile focuses his law practice in the areas of commercial litigation, construction law, administrative agency law, corporate governance, municipal law, procurement and gaming law.

In a news release issued back in March, Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason said that more than 9,000 Republicans had signed petitions in support of endorsed candidate Stabile.

On the eastern side of the state, the Philadelphia Inquirer had endorsed Stabile for Superior Court because, as the editorial stated, the corporate attorney, despite having no judicial background, had highlighted a “gap” in opponent McVay’s resume.

Stabile, the paper wrote, has experience dealing with a range of business law matters, he previously served as a litigator for the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, and he worked as a clerk in the appellate court system.

“More important, Stabile displays an enthusiasm for legal scholarship that spans a 30-year career, an impressive work ethic, and what the bar called a ‘passion for … public service,’” the editorial stated. “Despite being on the bench, McVay comes up somewhat short by comparison.”

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry’s political arm, ChamberPAC, had also thrown its endorsement behind Stabile.

“With more than thirty years of broad legal experience in Pennsylvania courts, Vic Stabile has shown that he is dedicated to promoting transparency, fairness and common sense within the state’s legal system,” Gene Barr, president of the chamber, said in a prior statement. “He has also earned a reputation for being business friendly, understanding that a healthy private sector drives the economy.”

Meanwhile, two other Superior Court judges won retention on Tuesday.

Judges Susan Peikes Gantman, a Republican, and Jack Panella, a Democrat, both won additional 10-year terms on the appellate body.

Both appeals judges secured 69.18 percent of the “yes” vote, according to state election results.

The Superior Court consists of 15 judges who are elected to 10-year terms, and face subsequent retention votes if they desire to stay on the bench.

Candidates running for appellate courts, as well as the states Courts of Common Pleas, must be licensed attorneys before running for judicial office.

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