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Women Judges of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas

by Joel Fishman, Ph.D.

In commemoration of Women's History Month, we recognize twenty-seven women judges who have sat or are sitting on the Courts of Allegheny County, Fifth Judicial District, Pennsylvania. The first judge began in 1930. Fifteen still sit on the court (fourteen judges and one senior judge) and two sit on the appellate courts (Allen on Superior Court, McCullough on Commonwealth Court). Three have sat on the Supreme Court (Alpern, Baldwin and Melvin) and Superior Court (Allen, Melvin, Olson) and two on Commonwealth Court (McCullough and Smith-Ribner). The following biographies are drawn mostly from Joel Fishman, Judges of Allegheny County, Fifth Judicial District, Pennsylvania (1788-2008) (2d. ed. 2009), Pennsylvania Manual, and various internet sites. Firsts:

• 1930: Sarah M. Soffel, first woman judge in Pennsylvania
• 1942: Anne X. Alpern, first woman Solicitor of the City of Pittsburgh
• 1959: Anne X. Alpern, first woman Pennsylvania Attorney-General
• 1961: Anne X. Alpern, first woman Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court
• 1984: Doris Smith-Ribner, first appointed African-American woman judge to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas
• 1988: Doris Smith-Ribner, first African-American woman judge elected to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court
• 1990: (January): Cynthia Baldwin, first African-American woman judge elected to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas
• 2006-07: Kim Berkeley Clark, first African-American woman President of the Allegheny County Bar Association
• 2008-13: Donna Jo McDaniel, first woman President-Judge of Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas
• 2008: Cheryl Allen, first African-American woman judge elected to the Pennsylvania Superior Court

NAME DATES OF SERVICE
Allen, Cheryl Lynn July 20, 1990-December 27, 2007
Alpern, Anne X. December 16, 1953-Janaury 20, 1959; January 29, 1962-January 6, 1974
Baldwin, Cynthia A. January 1, 1990-February 16, 2006
Bigley, Kelly Eileen January 7, 2008-present
Bubash, Cathleen Cawood July 2007-present
Bush, Eleanor L. January 6, 2014-January 2024
Clark, Kim Berkeley March 17, 1999-present
Durkin, Kathleen A. January 6, 1992-present
Eaton, Kim D. January 3, 2000-present
Evashavik DiLucente, Susan January 4, 2010-present
Finkelhor, Marion K. January 3, 1972-December 31, 1987
Friedman, Judith L. A. January 6, 1986-December 31, 2012; senior judge, 2013-present
Hens-Greco, Kathryn M. Janaury 2, 2006-present
Lazzara, Beth Ann January 2, 2006-present
McBride, Lois Mary County Court, June 5, 1934-January 4, 1964
McCullough, Patricia A. March 24, 2005-January 2, 2006
McDaniel, Donna Jo January 6, 1986-present
Melvin, Joan Orie July 12, 1990-January 5, 1998
Mulligan, Kathleen R. January 3, 1994-present
Olson, Judith Ference November 2008-December 31, 2009
Rangos, Jill E. February 18, 2003-present
Ross, Eunice (Latshaw) December 11, 1972-October 11, 1993
Ruffner, M. Susan March 26, 1999-January 3, 2000
Satler, Jennifer A. January 6, 2014-January 2024
Smith-Ribner, Doris December 20, 1984-Janauary 5, 1986
Soffel, Sarah M. County Court, August 27, 1930-December 14, 1951; Common Pleas, December 15, 1951-December 29, 1961
Ward, Christine Ann February 27, 2003-present

 

Cheryl Lynn Allen (1947- ) sat as the second African-American woman judge on the court from July 20, 1990 to December 27, 2007, when she was elevated to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (J.D., 1975). Among her former positions were Attorney in the Neighborhood Legal Services (1975-76), Assistant Solicitor in the Allegheny County Law Department (1977-90), General Counsel of the Wilkinsburg Chapter of the NAACP (1979-87), and in private practice (1980-90). She has won numerous awards including Outstanding Young Women in America (1980, 1982, 1983), University of Pittsburgh Alumni of the Year (1999), National Association of Negro Business & Professional Women Sojourner Truth Award (2000), Juvenile Court Judges Commission Award (2004), The Legal Intelligencer & Pennsylvania Law Weekly Women of the Year (2008), and New Pittsburgh Courier's Women of Excellence Award (2008).

 Judge Alpern

Anne X. Alpern (December 25, 1903-February 2, 1981) sat on the court from December 16, 1953-January 20, 1959 and then was appointed by Governor David Lawrence from January 29, 1962 to January 1964 upon the elevation of Henry X. O'Brien to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. She was then elected to a full term from January 1964 to January 6, 1974. Among Alpern's three firsts were the first woman solicitor for the City of Pittsburgh (1942-54), and Governor David Lawrence appointed her the first woman Pennsylvania Attorney-General (1959) and later the first woman associate justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (September 7-December 31, 1961). Following her term of office, she was a partner in the law firm of Berkman, Ruslander Lieber and Pohl. In 1994, the Pennsylvania Bar Association established the Anne X. Alpern Award, which is awarded annually to a female jurist who demonstrates excellence in the legal profession and makes a significant professional impact on women in the law. The University of Pittsburgh has a collection of her papers in Hillman Library.

Judge Baldwin

Cynthia Ackron Baldwin (1945) sat as the second African-American woman judge and first to be elected to the court from January 8, 1990 to February 16, 2006, when Governor Edward Rendell raised her to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as its third woman and second African-American justice (February 16, 2006-December 31, 2007). Baldwin graduated from Duquesne University School of Law (J.D., 1980) Among her former positions were Staff Attorney, Neighborhood Legal Services (1980-81), Deputy Attorney-General, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (1983-86), private practice (1987-89), and Adjunct Professor, Duquesne University School of Law (1989-2001). Following her stint on the Supreme Court, she became a partner in Duane Morris (2008) and then General Counsel and Vice President, Penn State University (2008-2012). Among Baldwin's other positions included a Fulbright Scholar teaching in Zimbabwe, Chair of the Board of Trustees of Penn State University (2004-07), Duquesne University Board of Directors (1996-2005). Among her honors and awards were Pittsburgh Woman of the Year in Law and Government for 1998, Pittsburgher of the Century, African-American, Pittsburgh Magazine (1999), Woman of Spirit, Carlow College (2004), Athena Award, Allegheny Conference on Community Development (2007), and Anne X. Alpern Award, PBA Commission on Women in the Profession Committee (2008).

Judge Bigley

Kelly Eileen Bigley (1965-) was elected in November 2007 and her term is from January 7, 2008 to January 1, 2018. She graduated from Robert Morris University (1991?) and Duquesne University School of Law (J.D. 1994). She served for ten years as a law clerk to her father, Judge Gerard M. Bigley (1978-2005) before he became a senior judge.

 Judge Bubash

Cathleen Cawood Bubash (1959- ) was appointed by Governor Ed Rendell in June 2007, took office in July 2007, and then was elected to a ten-year term of office from January 2008 to January 2018. She graduated from Penn State University (B.A., 1981) and Duquesne University School of Law (J.D., 1985). Among her former positions were Public Defender in Allegheny County (1989-1995), private practice (1989-2000), magisterial district judge (2000-2007), and adjunct professor at Community College of Allegheny College (1999-2004).

 Judge Bush

Eleanor Bush (1960-) was elected to the court in November 2013 and her current term is from January 2014 to January 2024. Bush graduated from Yale University (B.A., 1982), its Law School (J.D., 1988), and its School of Management (M.P.P.M., 1988). She has served as an attorney for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Juvenile Law Center, KidsVoice, and the Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption & Permanency Network. She served as a consultant for the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law.

 Judge Durkin

Kathleen A. Durkin (1948- ) has sat on the court from January 6, 1992 to present with her current term to expire on January 1, 2018. She graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (B.A., 1970, M.A., 1976) and Duquesne University School of Law (J.D., 1982). She was an Assistant Solicitor for Allegheny County (1982-91), before her election to the court.

Judge Clark

Kim Berkeley Clark (1956-) was appointed by Governor Tom Ridge in April 1997 and has sat on the court from April 7, 1999 to present. Her current term will expire on January 6, 2020. She graduated from Tennessee State University (B.A., 1978) and Duquesne University School of Law (J.D., 1983). She has served twice as Administrative Judge of the Family Division (2005-08 and 2013-15). Her previous position was Deputy Assistant Attorney, Allegheny County (1983-99). She was the first African-American woman President of the Allegheny County Bar Association (2006-07). Among her memberships of organizations include the Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission on Racial, Gender, and Ethnic Fairness, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency-Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee, and the Joint State Government Commission on Children of Incarcerated Parents. Among her awards were Humanitarian Award, McKeesport Black Caucus (1999), Children First Prevention Award, Family Resources (2004), and Greater Pittsburgh Athena Award (2012).

 Judge Eaton

Kim D. Eaton (1956-) has sat on the court from January 3, 2000 to present with her current term to expire on January 6, 2020. She graduated from Penn State University (B.A., 1978) and University of Pittsburgh School of Law (J.D., 1981). She was in private practice from 1982 to 1999 becoming a partner in the Pittsburgh law firm of Rose Schmidt Hasley & DiSalle. She received the Pennsylvania Bar Association Pro Bono Award and Olbum Award from Allegheny County Bar Association for her work on the Bench-Bar Conference.

 Judge Evashavik

Susan DiLucente Evashavik (1963- ) is in her first term, sitting from January 4, 2010 to January 6, 2020. She graduated from American University (B.A., 1986) and Dickinson School of Law (J.D., 1989). She was in private practice in Evashavik and Della Vecchio and later Evashavik and Evashavik. She sat as a magisterial district judge (2002-2009) before her election to the court.

 Judge Finkelhor

Marion K. Finkelhor (August 5, 1908-February 8, 1996) sat on the court from January 3, 1972 to December 31, 1987. She graduated from Wells College (B.A., 1938) and University of Pittsburgh School of Law (J.D., 1941). During World War II, she served as an attorney for the War Labor Board (1942-44) and American Red Cross service (1944-46). She was in private practice and served as an Assistant Solicitor and Solicitor of the City of Pittsburgh (1959-72) and Special Assistant for Human Services for Mayor Joseph Barr of Pittsburgh (1965-68). She also taught at the University of Pittsburgh Political Science Department (1946-58) and later at Duquesne University Law School (1962-73). Among her awards were Woman of the Year Awards from the Post Gazette and Pittsburgh Press, Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania (1977).

 Judge Friedman

Judith L. A. Friedman (1942-) sat on the court from January 6, 1986 to December 31, 2012 when she took senior status to present. Friedman graduated from Mount Holyoke College (B.A., 1964) and University of Pittsburgh School of Law (J.D., 1973). Among her previous positions she was a volunteer to U. S. Peace Corps in Turkey (1966-69), attorney for I.R.S. (1973-84), private practice in Friedman and Friedman (1974-86), and Deputy Coroner of Allegheny County (1980-85).

 Judge Hens-Grecco

Kathryn M. Hens-Greco (1957-) is in her first term sitting from January 2, 2006 to January 4, 2016. She graduated from LeMoyne College (B.A., 1979) and Antioch School of Law (J.D., 1985). She worked in private practice (1985-2005) with her latest position as partner in Stokes, Cole, Lurie, and Hens-Greco (1997-2005).

 Judge Lazarra

Beth Ann Lazzara (1966-) has sat on the court from January 2, 2006 to January 4, 2016. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh (B.S., summa cum laude, 1988) and University of Pittsburgh School of Law (J.D., cum laude, 1991). She was in private practice (1991-2005) ending as a partner in Goodrich, Goodrich & Lazzara (2001-05). She also has taught at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (2003 to present). Among her many memberships are included Vice-President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association (2005) and President of the Western Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association (2000-01) and other various positions. She has been a prolific contributor to PaTLA presentations.

 Judge McBride

Lois Mary McBride (1891-March 28, 1970) was appointed by Governor Gifford Pinchot in June 1934 and served on the County Court of Allegheny County from June 5, 1934 to January 4, 1964). She was the second woman judge to sit on the Allegheny County courts. She graduated from Grove City College and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (LL.B., 1928). She was a social worker for Family Welfare of Allegheny County (1912-28).

Judge McCullough

 Patricia A. McCullough (1957-) was appointed by Governor Ed Rendell in February 2005 and sat on the court from March 24, 2005 to January 2, 2006. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh (B.A., 1978) and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (J.D., 1981). McCullough was an Assistant Counsel University of Pittsburgh (1982-93), in private practice (1991-2004), and Vice-Chair/Chair of the Allegheny County Board of Property Appeals (2000-05). Following her term of office, she was executive director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh (2006-07), private practice (2008-09), and then was elected as a judge of Commonwealth Court (2010-2020).

Judge McDaniel

 Donna Jo McDaniel (1946-) has sat on the court since January 1, 1986 to January 4, 2016. She graduated from Muskingum College (B.A., 1968) and Ohio Northern University School of Law (J.D., 1973). She was an Assistant Public Defender, Allegheny County (1973-82) and a District Magistrate in the City of Pittsburgh Magistrate's Court (1981-85). She served as the first woman President Judge of Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas (December 24, 2008-December 24 (2013).

 Judge Melvin

Joan Orie Melvin (1956- ) was appointed by Governor Robert Casey in July 1990 and then elected to a full term, sitting from July 18, 1990 to January 1998. She graduated from University of Notre Dame (B.A., 1978) and Duquesne University School of Law (J.D. 1981). Melvin was in private practice (1981-85), Magistrate, City of Pittsburgh Magistrate Courts (1985) and then Chief Magistrate (1987-90). She was elected to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. In 1998, she became a judge of the Pennsylvania Superior Court (January 1998- January 2010 and then a justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. She resigned her position on May 1, 2013 following her criminal conviction for three felonies relating to use of legislative and judicial staff for campaign reelections.

 Judge Mulligan

Kathleen R. Mulligan (1954- ) has sat on the court since January 1994 with her term expiring in January 2024. She graduated from Bucknell University (B.A., 1976) and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (J.D., 1979).

 Judge Olson

Judith Ference Olson (1957- ) was appointed to the court by Governor Edward Rendell, and sat on the court from November 2008 to December 31, 2009. Olson graduated from St. Francis University (B.A., 1979) and from Duquesne University School of Law (J.D., cum laude, 1982). She was a law clerk to Judge Maurice B. Cohill, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (1982-1984). She worked in several law firms (1984-2008) where she eventually became a partner in Dickie McCamey and Chilcote PC. She was elected in November 2009 to sit on the Pennsylvania Superior Court, where her current term of office is from January 2010 to January 2020.

 Judge Rangos

Jill E. Rangos (1959-) was appointed by Governor Ed Rendell in February 2003 and has sat on the bench from February 18, 2003; she won retention election in 2013 and will sit until January 2024. She graduated from Dickinson College (B.A., 1981) and Catholic University, Columbus School of Law (J.D., 1984). She served as a law clerk to Judge Maurice B. Cohill, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (1984-86, 1996-2000). She was in private practice with Thorp, Reed & Armstrong (1986-90) and then Babst Calland Clements & Zomnir (2001-03). She also served as the Executive Director of the John G. Rangos, Sr. Charitable Foundation (1994-96). She has served on a number of various boards.

 Judge Ross

Eunice Latshaw Ross (1923-) was appointed by Governor Milton Shapp in December 1972 and she took office on December 11, 1972 until her retirement on October 13, 1993 She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh (B.A., summa cum laude, 1948) and University of Pittsburgh School of Law (LL.B., summa cum laude, 1951). She was an Assistant Dean for Women, University of Pittsburgh (1945-47), law clerk in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas (1952-54), Judicial Assistant, Orphans' Court (1954-70), and in private practice (1952-65, 1967-72). Following her retirement, she served as a senior judge on Commonwealth Court for ten years. For more than a decade, she served as co-author of Will Contests (West Publishing Co.).

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M. Susan Ruffner (1952-) was appointed by Governor Tom Ridge in early 1999 and took office on March 26, 1999 and served until January 3, 2000. She graduated from University of Pittsburgh (B.A. 1974) and George Washington University National Law Center (J.D., 1977). She served as an Assistant District Attorney, Allegheny County (1977-84), Staff Legal Counsel to Commissioner Barbara Hafer of Allegheny County (1984-89), Deputy Chief Counsel, Department of the Auditor General (1989-91), Chief Magistrate, Pittsburgh Magistrates Court (1991-94; Chief Counsel, Port Authority of Allegheny County, (1994-97), and private practice (1998-99). Following her court position she served as Public Defender, Allegheny County (2000-04); Executive Director, Child Watch of Pittsburgh (2004), and Deputy Attorney General for Consumer Affairs Division (2005 to present).

 Judge Satler

Jennifer A. Satler (1975-) was elected to the court in November 2013 and her current term is from January 2014 to January 2024. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College (B.S., 1997) and University of Pittsburgh School of Law (J.D., 2000). She worked in the Allegheny County Public Defender's Office (2000-07) and has been in private practice before her election to the court. She has also served as mock trial coach at the University of Pittsburgh undergraduate school and Law School.

 Judge Smith-Ribner

Doris A. Smith-Ribner (1945- ) was appointed by Governor Richard Thornburg in 1984 and sat as the first African-American woman judge on the court from November 1984 to January 5, 1986. She was elected in November 1987 as the first African-American to be elected to a state-wide position. She sat as the first African-American woman judge on the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court (January 4, 1988-July 31, 2009). She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh (B.S., 1969) and University of Pittsburgh School of Law (J.D., 1972). She was in private practice until 1986 and also held positions as Commissioner, Pennsylvania State Human Commission (1974-80), member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Disciplinary Board (1981-84), and Solicitor, County Controller of Allegheny County (1980-84). President Obama appointed her in January 2014 to serve on the President's Advisory Commission for Educational Excellence for African Americans. Among her awards were Businesswoman of the Year, Business & Professional Women's Club (1985), Distinguished Alumni Award, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and Commencement Speaker, University of Pittsburgh School of Law (May 26, 2007). Among her memberships were a member of the Board of Visitors, University of Pittsburgh School of Law (1996-99), member of the Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Fairness, and Life Member, National Council of Negro Women. 

Judge Soffel

Sara Mathilde. Soffel (October 27, 1886-October 5, 1976) was appointed by Governor John Fisher as a judge of the County Court of Allegheny County on August 4, 1930 and took office on August 27, 1930 serving until December 1941. She then got elected to the Court of Common Pleas where she served from December 15, 1941 to December 29, 1961. Soffel was the first woman judge in Pennsylvania. She graduated from Wellesley College (B.A., with honors, 1908) and University of Pittsburgh School of Law (LL.B., with highest honors, 1916). She received honorary LL.D. degrees from Wilson College, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania College for Women, and Grove City. She was a high school teacher (1908-16), private practice (1916-30), Assistant City Solicitor, City of Pittsburgh (1922-26), and Director of the Women and Children's Bureau, Pennsylvania Department of Labor (1929-30). Following her judgeship, she served as counsel to Buchanan Ingersoll Rodewald Kyle and Buerger.

 Judge Ward

Christine Ann Ward (1957-) was appointed by Governor Ed Rendell in February 2003 and began on March 1, 2003 and was retained for her position until January 2024. She graduated from Washington & Jefferson College (B.A., summa cum laude, 1979) and University of Pittsburgh School of Law (J.D., with honors, 1982). She worked in private practice (1982-2003) ending as a partner in Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis (2000-03). She was a Rhodes Scholar finalist and member of Phi Beta Kappa Fraternity.