FIFTEEN candidates for Common Pleas judge are vying in the Democratic primary for just four nominations. Outside legal circles, they're virtually unknown and in a mayoral election year, little noticed.
All 15 showed up last week at the Convention Center for a 90-minute exchange set up by the editorial boards of the Daily News and the Inquirer.
Here are snapshots of the candidates, in reverse alphabetical order, and some of their responses to questions:
_ Marvin Williams, 55, is a graduate of Temple University and its law school, and has been employed at Family Court for the past six years, most recently in charge of its support-hearings unit.
He's a former deputy sheriff and CPA who worked as an accountant for 12 years before going to law school.
Asked about the impact of prison overcrowding on sentencing decisions, Williams said it forces judges to think about an issue they shouldn't have to consider. "If we have prison overcrowding, that can certainly impede in some instances, where judges will maybe not sentence a person to incarceration that may require incarceration . . . So you have pressure upon the municipality to make sure there are facilities . . . It comes down really to dollars and cents, which really we shouldn't have to worry about."
_ Gerard P. Shotzbarger, 50, a graduate of Haverford College and University of Pennsylvania Law School, lives in Northeast Philadelphia. He has maintained a solo practice since 1984, handling civil and criminal cases, but the Philadelphia Bar Association rated him "not recommended" when he missed a deadline for its questionnaire. He was candid about the problem, saying he'd entered the judicial race expecting two things - a Democratic Party endorsement and a Bar Association recommendation - and got neither.
Shotzbarger invoked the memory of the Temptations' late David Ruffin, who sang "Statue of a Fool," the story of a man "who let love slip through his hands" and cried a "million tears." "Listen to that song; think about me," Shotzbarger told the editorial boards.
_ Elvin Ross, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Texas Southern University Law School, is the youngest of the judicial candidates, at age 36.
An engineer, he taught math at the High School for Creative and Performing Arts and worked at Peco Energy before law school and now works for the city's biggest law firm, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, for which he does corporate law.
"I'm going to be a judge who comes down from the bench and talks to the people" through continued involvement in community organizations outside the courtroom, Ross said. His Web site says he's been active in Big Brothers Big Sisters and provides business-law advice to minority entrepreneurs.
_ Angeles Roca has been practicing law 11 years, making her way through Temple University while working as a secretary at Wills Eye Hospital, then going to Villanova law school.
Her solo practice near 5th and Girard handles family law, personal injuries, real estate and other matters, frequently for Hispanic clients who cannot speak English, she said. Roca criticized the shortage of interpreters available to the court system and said that as a judge, she hopes to make it easier for non-lawyers who are trying to represent themselves in court.
_ J. Scott O'Keefe, 55, is a graduate of Villanova and Delaware Law School, and has had a solo practice the past 20 years.
"I've been in court almost every day for 27 years," O'Keefe said last week. "There's nothing they can put before me on the bench that I haven't done."
Asked about judicial accountability, O'Keefe complained that some judges appear more concerned about "getting through as many cases as possible" without enough concern for the individuals in the courtroom.
"It's up to the individual judge to be efficient, to put in a full day's work, not a half day's work, to do whatever is necessary in order to get it done, but not at the expense of the people in the litigation," he said.
_ Thomas M. Nocella, a graduate of Temple and its law school, worked as an assistant district attorney and a lawyer for the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, prosecuting stock and pension fraud, before going into private practice.
"To me the law is the true infrastructure of this country, the infrastructure that holds this country together," he said last week.
He was also critical of some judges who seem to line up for or against the Police Department.
"Some judges historically have had the position that they're either very pro Police Department or very contra the Police Department, and it's very obvious to anybody who spends a day in that courtroom," Nocella said. "I think a judge has to place himself or herself above that type of bias."
_ Joseph Murphy, 57, is a graduate of St. Joseph's University and Villanova law school, and has been in private practice the past 30 years, mostly doing defense work for insurance companies.
As a volunteer, he's the past president and chairman of Special People in Northeast (SPIN), a nonprofit with 600 employees and an annual budget of $30 million that helps mentally and physically handicapped persons in Northeast Philadelphia and Bucks County. His three children include one from Korea, another with Down syndrome.
"Because of my children, I'm very sensitive to issues of discrimination," he said.
_ Beverly Muldrow, 57, is a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College and Ohio State law school.
She's run her own practice the past six years, handling a variety of cases before Family Court, after a career including 10 years with the district attorney's office, three years with the Environmental Protection Agency, and three years with Waste Management Inc. in Bensalem. She said she hopes to serve in Family Court.
"I'm in dependency court every day," she told the editorial boards. "When I see what is going on, there need to be some changes there."
_ Thomas Martin, 54, is a graduate of Boston College and Villanova law school, and has been involved in commercial and employment-related litigation for most of his 30-year career.
Unlike many judicial candidates, he was positive about the experience of running for judge, visiting community groups and ward meetings.
"Each of us who have gone through this process has been changed by it, and it's a good thing," he said.
Asked about judicial candidates' raising money from lawyers who may later come before them in court, Martin said he believes it is "a myth" that the contributions may influence judicial decisions. Most candidates are putting up their own money for the bulk of campaign expenses, he said, and "the contributions that come from lawyers are relatively small. They're not the amount that is going to influence anybody's judgment."
_ Ellen Green-Ceisler, 49, a graduate of Temple and its law school, spent brief stints in the D.A.'s office and private practice, but has worked mostly for city agencies, including five years monitoring police operations as director of its integrity and accountability unit.
She's also worked for the city controller's office, evaluated disciplinary procedures for the school district, and worked as an adviser to Sheriff John Green.
"In all of these roles what I have been trying to do is make a positive difference, to improve the quality and transparency in our government and to help people . . . My goal is to be on Family Court," she said.
_ Michael Erdos, 42, was first in his class at Dickinson College and went on to get degrees from Oxford University and Yale Law School. He played semi-pro basketball in England 1988-90 while at Oxford and then served as an assistant coach for Yale while attending law school in 1990-91.
He has spent the last 10 years in the D.A.'s office, handling major trials, identity theft and other economic crimes, and most recently, running the public-nuisance task force, closing hundreds of drug houses and nuisance bars.
As a prosecutor and before that, a civil-rights litigator, Erdos said, "I've devoted my entire career to public service and the public interest . . . Whether you're facing discrimination or living in a neighborhood ravaged by crime, you're not going to have the opportunities every one else will have."
_ Alice Beck Dubow, 48, a graduate of Penn and its law school, has practiced 22 years, developing expertise in tax, zoning and real-estate issues with both private and government clients.
She spent five years in the Rendell administration, in charge of real estate and real-estate-tax matters at the city Law Department. More recently, she worked six years on the legal staff at Drexel University.
She is the daughter of retired Superior Court Judge Phyllis Beck, but also credits her children, now 15 and 18, with helping prepare her for judicial duties.
"I spent many hours figuring out who was lying to me and who was telling the truth," she said.
_ Robert P. Coleman is a graduate of Villanova and Delaware Law School, and has been in private practice for the past 25 years, most recently specializing in asbestos cases, after lots of varied litigation.
Asked in a questionnaire to describe the most pressing needs in the justice system, Coleman criticized the lengthy delays.
In criminal cases, he said, more judges are needed to handle growing caseloads. For civil cases, he said, the court system should try to expand a successful program handling cases of worker exposure to toxic chemicals or dust. With few exceptions, Coleman said, those cases get to trial within 18 months. He said the courts should expand and tailor that program to handle all civil cases.
_ Greg Coleman, 59, a graduate of the University of Connecticut and Rutgers School of Law, is the son of the late City Council president, Joseph E. Coleman. He served as chief of staff to Council, was involved in several city-related bond transactions, and now maintains a private, varied practice. In recent years, he said, he has concentrated on mental-health law, including involuntary civil and medical commitments.
_ Linda Carpenter, 44, a graduate of Goucher College and Villanova law school, has been practicing law for 18 years, specializing in litigation.
She's president of the Fairmount Civic Association and a board member of the Lutheran Settlement House and the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.