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2017 Statewide Judicial Seats

Supreme Court
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Judge Dwayne Woodruff
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The Honorable Dwayne D. Woodruff is a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, presiding primarily over Juvenile cases in the Family Court division.  


Woodruff first came to Pittsburgh in May of 1979 when drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers as a defensive back—#49, after earning a degree in Business Finance from the University of Louisville that same month. He went on to play 12 seasons—including playing in Super Bowl XIV as a rookie, being named team MVP in 1982 and serving as team captain his final three seasons.  


During his professional football career, Woodruff earned a Juris Doctor (1988) from Duquesne University School of Law, which he attended full time in the evening.  Upon passing the Bar Exam, he enjoyed a dual career for 3 years from 1988 to 1990, simultaneously practicing law with Meyer Darragh Buckler Bebenek & Eck, PLLC and playing football for the Pittsburgh Steelers—setting a precedent for the NFL and professional sports.  


Most significant among his many accomplishments are his marriage of 34 years to Joy Maxberry Woodruff and his three young adult children—Jillian Woodruff, M.D., an Obstetrics and Gynecology doctor in the DC area; Jenyce Woodruff, Esquire, an attorney here in Pittsburgh; and John B. Woodruff II, a second year law student at Duquesne University School of Law.   Woodruff serves on the prestigious Juvenile Court Judges' Commission, appointed by Governor Ed Rendell in July of 2006, to set standards for the court on a statewide basis.

Superior Court
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Judge Maria McLaughlin
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Judge McLaughlin currently serves as the co-chair on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas FYI Committee and as the current vice-president of the Nicholas A. Cipriani Family Law American Inn of Court. She has on numerous occasions participated on judicial panels and has lectured for the Philadelphia Bar Association, the Delaware County Bar Association, PA Trial Lawyers Association and the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. Judge McLaughlin has appeared as a guest on local television and radio shows to discuss a variety of family law topics.

Prior to being elected to the bench, Judge McLaughlin served as Chief Assistant District Attorney of the Child Support Enforcement Unit. She was an attorney in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office for 19 years. She was one of the youngest female Chiefs appointed by District Attorney Lynne Abraham.

Judge McLaughlin is a member of both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar and was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the United States of America, the US District Court for the Eastern District to PA, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and the US District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Judge Carolyn Nichols 
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During Carolyn's 20 years as an attorney and public servant, she has held a number of roles including: Legislative Assistant to former Councilwoman Augusta Clarke, Assistant City Solicitor, Deputy Secretary of External Affairs for the Mayor's Office and Deputy Finance Director, Director of MBEC (Minority Business Enterprise Council).  Carolyn was co-counsel for the Huntingdon Valley swimming pool racial discrimination case that received international attention in 2009.

Carolyn received the City Office of Economic Opportunity's Guardian of Economic Inclusion Award for her service as MBEC Director (2014).  

Judge Nichols was awarded the Philadelphia Tribune's Most Influential African American Award (2011).  

Judge Geoff Moulton
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Geoff Moulton was sworn in as a judge of the Pennsylvania Superior Court in August 2016, after being nominated by Governor Tom Wolf and unanimously confirmed by the Pennsylvania Senate.  His term extends through the end of 2017.


Judge Moulton has devoted the bulk of his career to public service, developing a broad range of experience that serves him well as an appellate court judge.  Following his graduation from Columbia Law School in 1984, where he was managing editor of the Columbia Law Review, he served as a law clerk on both the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the United States Supreme Court.  After his clerkships, he spent a total of eight years as a federal prosecutor in Philadelphia, including four years as First Assistant United States Attorney.

During his pre-judicial career, Judge Moulton directed two major independent investigations, one of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Texas (for the U.S. Department of the Treasury), and the other of the investigation of Jerry Sandusky (for the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General).

Judge Deb Kunselman

Elected twice to the bench, Judge Kunselman has presided over family, juvenile and civil cases, including several multi-million-dollar jury trials. She has decided many employment cases, including cases where she upheld appeals from labor arbitration awards.  In one important case, she awarded back-pay and reinstated an employee in the health-care industry, who was terminated for refusing mandatory overtime.  One of her significant contributions as a trial court judge has been to implement Act 53 in Beaver County; this process allows parents of a minor, suffering from addiction, to petition the courts to force their child to attend inpatient drug and alcohol treatment. 

Judge Kunselman is recognized as a frequent speaker on legal issues.  She has taught numerous Continuing Legal Education classes to lawyers and, twice, has been asked to teach the Family Law course at Pennsylvania New Judge School.   Since 2011, she has served on the statewide Judicial Education Committee.   She often speaks at local schools on the Constitution and legal careers, and she continues to teach religious education classes at her church.  As an active member of the Beaver County Bar Association, Judge Kunselman participates annually in the Beaver County Mock Trial Competition and many other volunteer programs. 

Commonwealth Court
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Judge Ellen Ceisler
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From 1997-2005, Ellen served as Deputy Director and then Director of the Integrity and Accountability Office for the Philadelphia Police Department. In that capacity Ellen audited the operations, policies, and practices of the Police Department to minimize misconduct, improve the effectiveness of the Department’s operations, and enhance public confidence in the Department. Despite the sensitivity of this position, Ellen received the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police in her successful bid for judge in 2007.

In 2005, Ellen served as a consultant for the Philadelphia School District on issues pertaining to student disciplinary policies and procedures, in an effort to make the public schools safer for the teachers and students. She then served as the Director of the Special Investigations Unit of the Philadelphia City Controller’s Office where she initiated and oversaw investigations into municipal waste and fraud.

​She is running statewide as a Democrat in the Pennsylvania Primary Election to become the party’s nominee for one of two open seats on Commonwealth Court. The election will be held on May 16, 2017 and if successful, she will run in the General Election to be held on November 7, 2017.

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Judge Irene Clark

After her tenure as a municipal court judge, Irene’s work included an affiliation with Regional Housing Legal Services where she was instrumental in the launch of the Home Ownership Preservation Project, a program which helped homeowners resolve delinquent tax issues.  For five years, she ran a pro bono clinic at NeighborWorks® Western Pennsylvania assisting lower income homeowners with "tangled title" issues.  And she served a leading role with a University of Pittsburgh School of Law clinic providing blight reduction legal services to reclaim long-abandoned and blighted real estate, prompting a senior legislative leader to give her the informal title of "Blight Buster".
Since leaving the bench in 2003, Judge Clark's legal career has centered on helping municipalities and organizations clean up and revitalize blighted and abandoned properties. She has become a leading authority in the field, as an attorney, representing clients in blight revitalization efforts and as an advocate, counseling state and local organizations on reforming laws and policies related to blight.

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