COLLEGE TOWNSHIP – Debra Todd always wanted to be a judge.
She just didn’t know how far up the ladder she might go.
Today, Todd is a justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and she wants to stay in that position. Todd, who is the first Democratic woman on the court, is running for retention.
If she gets it, her seniority will make her likely to be chief justice after the mandatory retirement of two other justices, including current Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, who is also running for retention in November.
Retention is different than a flat-out election. Judges in Pennsylvania go on the ballot asking the voters if they should get to keep their jobs. If the voters agree, the process is over. If they don’t, then a new election happens. Todd is OK with that process, which makes for a more non-partisan race.
“I don’t take anything for granted,” she told the Centre Daily Times in an interview Wednesday. “It depends a lot on the mood of the electorate.”
“Non-partisan” was a word Todd used often, and for good reason. Justices pick a party to run but are still unable to be too polar in their opinions as they campaign.
“I take my intellect, heart and mind to the bench and do my best,” Todd said.
Another judge looking to move up to the Supreme Court was also in Centre County on Wednesday. Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Dwayne Woodruff visited Ag Progress Days.
If he wins, Woodruff may be the first Supreme Court justice from any state with a Super Bowl ring. He won his playing with the Steelers in 1980.
Today, he’s more of a referee, moderating what happens in a Pittsburgh family court.
“I’m kind of known as the education judge in Allegheny County,” he said.
Woodruff is running for election, contending for the seat vacated by Michael Eakin during the “Porngate” scandal that hit Pennsylvania in recent years. He’ll face of with Justice Sallie Mundy, a Republican who once practiced in Centre County and was appointed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to temporarily fill Eakin’s seat in 2016.
“It’s a service job,” Woodruff said. “I want to continue to serve the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If we all don’t get justice, no one gets justice.”