Robert Ross has again been selected by U.S. Sen. Robert Casey to head Judicial Review Process


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April 27, 2011

Lackawanna County Judges Terrence R. Nealon's and Carmen D. Minora's hopes of becoming federal judges are officially detoured as the state's U.S. senators announced a new selection process Tuesday that both judges will have to go through.

But President Obama's nomination of attorney Robert D. Mariani to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania will move forward as scheduled.

The change of course is due to the election of Sen. Pat Toomey last November.

Though presidents may nominate whomever they want, tradition holds they defer to a state's senators on district judgeships.

Last summer, Casey and Sen. Arlen Specter recommended Mariani and the two county judges to fill three vacancies on the Middle District bench.

In December, President Obama nominated Mariani but not the others whose names remained in the mix.

Obama renominated Mariani after the new Congress took over, but Toomey wanted a say in the selections. He and Casey agreed to a process similar to the one that led to the earlier recommendations, Casey spokesman Larry Smar said, but this time Toomey will have some influence in the decision-making.

They agreed to allow Mariani's nomination and those of two others in the Western District of Pennsylvania to proceed through the Senate review process. That will include a review by the senators, who generally must give their okays to a nominee for a nomination to proceed, hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee and a Senate confirmation vote. No hearing on Mariani's nomination is scheduled.

As for the other two Middle District vacancies, Smar said the senators will advertise for applicants soon on their Web sites and in law journals and similar publications.

"(We) will need time for applications to come in and for the lengthy and detailed applications to be filled out," he said. "There isn't a timeline, but the hope is that the process will move forward as quickly as possible."

Under the process established by Toomey and Casey, approximately 20-member panels in each judicial district - half appointed by Toomey, half by Casey - will seek and interview applicants, then recommend nominees for the two other Middle District vacancies and three in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The senators will then review applicants and make recommendations to the White House.

To be considered, applicants go through the process and must complete and submit the questionnaire, according to a joint news release from the senators. Each applicant who completes and submits the questionnaire will get an interview, and all names and information will be kept confidential.

Judge Minora declined to comment, but is expected to re-apply. Efforts to reach Judge Nealon were unsuccessful, but he also is expected to re-apply.

Each senator has appointed a co-chairman to each panel.

In the Middle District, the panel co-chairmen are attorney Harry P. McGrath, Casey's choice, and attorney Robert A. Graci, a former state Superior Court judge and chairman of the appellate group at Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC, a Harrisburg law firm.

In the Eastern District, the panel co-chairmen are attorney Robert Ross, a founding partner at the Philadelphia law firm, Ross Feller Casey, LLP, who is Casey's choice, and attorney John J. Soroko, chairman and chief executive officer of Duane Morris LLP, Toomey's choice. Casey's brother, Matthew, is a founding partner of Ross Feller Casey.

In the Western District, the panel co-chairmen are attorney Michael Adams, founder and managing partner, Mike Adams & Associates, LLC, a Pittsburgh law firm, Casey's choice; attorney Laura E. Ellsworth, partner in charge at the Pittsburgh office of Jones Day.

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