Maria McLaughlin, the Democratic candidate for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, was the guest of honor at an Aug. 25 fundraiser at the home of Cavi Miller, who is running for Cornwall mayor.
The outdoor event was attended by about 90 guests, including Pennsylvania’s senior U.S. Senator, Robert P. Casey Jr.
McLaughlin, 55, has been a Pennsylvania Superior Court judge since 2017. She will face Republican P. Kevin Brobson, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court’s president judge, in the Nov. 2 general election.
The winner will serve a 10-year term starting next January, filling a vacancy on the seven-member court left by Justice Thomas G. Saylor, who has reached the judiciary’s mandatory retirement age of 75 years.
Republican Saylor’s resignation leaves the court with a 5-1 Democratic advantage.
If McLaughlin wins in November, the Supreme Court would have a majority of women justices for the first time.
McLaughlin, a Philadelphia native, received her undergraduate degree from Penn State and her law degree in 1992 from Widener University’s Delaware Law School. During her final year as a law student, she clerked for the President Judge of the Superior Court, where she now sits.
McLaughlin’s legal career, as an attorney and as a judge, has focused on families and children.
After law school, she served for 19 years as a prosecutor with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, rising to chief of its Child Support Enforcement Unit. In 2011, she was elected as a judge of the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, where she presided in the family division until her election to the Superior Court in 2017.
As a Superior Court judge handling cases from across the state, she has been involved in a wider variety of legal disputes. When asked if she had written one or two opinions that she was especially proud of, she said no.
“I hate to point out one or two particular cases, because I think it it does a disservice to the folks who appear before me,” she explained. “Every case may be the most important thing in that person’s life, and I treat them as such.”
Other than saying that judges should not legislate from the bench, McLaughlin said she has no rigid judicial philosophy.
“I believe that when you describe yourself as having [a specific judicial philosophy], aren’t you already coming with some kind of bias or saying that you already have some particular way of looking at something?”
Instead, McLaughlin said that if she has anything like a “philosophy,” it is to “recognize that every case is different but to treat every case and every party the same, with respect and dignity, and without bias.”
Judicial campaign rules prohibit judges from discussing specific cases or legislation that could affect the courts. When asked for her thoughts on electing appeals court judges by district rather than statewide, McLaughlin declined to answer. She would only say that when she ran for Superior Court in 2017, she was the only candidate to visit every Pennsylvania county, and that she has never considered what county a case before her has come from or where the parties live.
Speaking to the crowd, and after briefly alluding to the importance of the courts in a democracy after last November’s election and subsequent events, Senator Casey turned to McLauglin’s advocacy for children and families.
“It’s not just that she’s eminently qualified, . . . it’s not just that she’s had a varied and diverse professional experience, but I like the fact that she’s been standing up for children all these years.”
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court was established in 1722 as a successor to the Provincial Court established in 1684. According to Ballotpedia, it is the oldest appellate court in the United States.
Justices on the court earn $215,037 annually.
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