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State of Pennsylvania May 19, 2009 Election
Smart Voter Full Biography for Jack A. Panella

Candidate for
Justice; Pennsylvania Supreme Court; Democratic Party

This information is provided by the candidate

Jack A. Panella (born May 4, 1955) is a Judge on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. Prior to his election to the Superior Court, he was a Judge on the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Pennsylvania.


He attended St. John's University and graduated in 1977 with a B.S. degree in Accounting. He was a participant in the Business Honors Program. He then received his law degree in 1980 from the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America, where he received the American Jurisprudence award from The Lawyers Co-Operative Publishing Company for the highest grade in Contracts.[1] Following graduation, he was selected to be a Judicial Law Clerk in the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Pennsylvania. From 1982 to 1991, he maintained his law practice as a sole practitioner. His clients included Larry Holmes, the former world's heavyweight boxing champion, and the late Al Loquasto, a former champion professional race car driver.[2]

As an Assistant County Solicitor for Northampton County, he represented the Department of Human Services, including the Children and Youth Services Division, the Mental Health Division, and the Area Agency on Aging, and became known for his strong advocacy of victims.[3] In May 1987, he was the youngest attorney in the history of Northampton County to be selected as the County Solicitor.[4]

In 2002, he was selected to join the United States Army National Guard to visit United States troops in Germany and Bosnia.[5] The trip was a cooperative effort of the 28th Infantry Division with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Committee.

Judge Panella is a member of the American Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and the Northampton County Bar Association. He is also a member of the American Judges Association.

Judicial career:

Judge Panella's election to appellate court in 2003 followed twelve years as a trial judge. He was appointed to the Northampton County Bench in 1991 by Governor Robert P. Casey.[6] He then became the second youngest judge in the history of Northampton County. In 1993 he was elected to a full ten-year term commencing January 1, 1994.[7] He presided over civil and criminal trials and was also the Administrative Judge for Asbestos Litigation, which involved complex mass tort litigation.[8]

While a trial judge, he was a member of the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges. He was Chair of the Commonwealth Partners Program, where he participated in statewide meetings with other judges and legislators in discussing and resolving issues of mutual concern.[9] In recognition of the success of this program, Judge Panella received the President's Award from the Conference of State Trial Judges in 2002.[10] In his capacity as a trial judge, Judge Panella was also a member of the Judicial Ethics Committee of the Conference.

He was elected to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania in November 2003, and was sworn into office as an appellate judge on January 9, 2004.[11] He now presides over appeals from civil, criminal and family law cases. He is also the statewide Administrative Judge for Wiretap & Electronic Surveillance in Pennsylvania.[12]

A well-publicized murder trial presided over by Judge Panella, provided the basis for the book Lipstick and Blood (Pinnacle True Crime 2006), by John Kearney. It is a nonfiction book about the joint murder trial of husband and wife defendants, Michelle Hetzel and Brandon Bloss, who were charged with the murder of Devon Guzman.

Commission for Justice Initiatives in Pennsylvania:

In 2004, he was appointed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to the Commission for Justice Initiatives in Pennsylvania (CJI), a committee organized to coordinate and recommend judicial outreach and specialized court programs. He was the Chair of the Public Education and Community Outreach subcommittee of the Commission.[13] As part of his responsibilities for the CJI, Judge Panella conceived and wrote a popular short film on the history and operation of the Pennsylvania Judiciary.[14] The video can be viewed on the websites of the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Judicial Ethics and Discipline:

Judge Panella had extensive experience in matters of judicial ethics and discipline. On August 26, 1997, Judge Panella was appointed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to be a judge of the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline (CJD)[15], a constitutional court that hears charges filed by the Judicial Conduct Board against judicial officers.[16] In June 2000, he was elected President Judge by his fellow judges. His four-year term expired in August 2001. In 2005, he was appointed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to the Judicial Conduct Board (JCB), which is the investigatory and prosecutorial arm of the judicial discipline system in Pennsylvania.[17] In July 2007, he was elected Chair of the Judicial Conduct Board, making him the only judge in the history of Pennsylvania to be elected both Chair of the JCB as well as President Judge of the CJD.[18]


Book: Judge Panella's first book, THE PENNSYLVANIA SEXUAL VIOLENCE BENCHBOOK, was published in December 2007. The book is a comprehensive reference designed to help judges for the complex criminal issues surrounding sexual violence cases.[19] The book has received very favorable reviews.[20]

Article: JUDICIAL OUTREACH - Finding Common Ground Between Governmental Branches: The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Partners Program.[21].


1. CUA Lawyer, E-Edition,; CUA Lawyer, Spring/Summer 2005,
2. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania,
3. The Express Times, 6-15-1989.
4. Morning Call, 4-23-1987 & 5-8-1987; The Express-Times, 5-8-1987.
5. Morning Call, 10-18-02 & 10-30-02; The Express-Times, 10-17-02 & 11-4-02.
6. Morning Call, 10-10-1991 & 10-25-1991; The Express Times, 10-11-1991 & 10-25-1991.
7. Morning Call, 1-4-1994.
8. Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County,
9. The Judges' Journal, Summer 2004, Vol. 43 No. 3, American Bar Association.
10. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania,
11. PA Department of State, Elections Division: 12. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania,
13. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania,
14. AOPC Connected, Spring 2008,
15. Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline,
16. Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline,
17. Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania,
18. Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania, News Release, October 11, 2007:
19. AOPC Press Release, 1-9-08:; The State of the Commonwealth's Courts, 2008:
20. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 1-10-08; Scranton Times-Tribune, 1-29-08; The Express Times, 1-14-08; Northampton NOW, 7-7-08,; Jenkinslaw, 2-18-08.
21. The Judges' Journal, Summer 2004, Vol. 43 No. 3, American Bar Association

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