Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty was attacked by a panhandler Friday evening in Center City as he left a restaurant with his family, police and a source close to the family said.

The attack, about 6 p.m. near 15th and Market Streets, was described by a police official and the source as random and unprovoked.

Dougherty was treated for a possible concussion at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, police said. He was recovering at home by 10 p.m., according to the family source, who added, "He is fine."

Police on Saturday said that a 26-year-old man, James Edward Paulk, has been charged with simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. Police listed an address for Paulk on the 6100 block of Ross Street in East Germantown. No one answered a phone number listed for him at that address.

Prior to assaulting Dougherty, police said, Paulk had punched another man on the subway. About 5 p.m. Friday, a 43-year-old man, whom police did not identify, was heading south on the Broad Street Line toward the sports complex when he saw Paulk standing at the opposite doors talking to himself, police said.

As the train approached the City Hall Station at 15th and Market Streets, Paulk allegedly walked toward the man and punched him on the left side of his neck, then ran off the train, police said. The man reported the incident to SEPTA police when he got off the train in South Philadelphia, Philadelphia police said.

Then, about 6 p.m., Dougherty and two other people were walking across 15th Street toward City Hall when they saw Paulk panhandling in the street, police said. Paulk went up to them and blocked their path, police said. Paulk asked them for money and they said no, police said.

Paulk then "swung his arm" and hit Dougherty in the right side of his face, police said. Paulk ran away as one of the people with Dougherty tried to chase after him, but Paulk fled into the subway.

Shortly afterward, SEPTA police arrested Paulk at the Girard Avenue station.

Dougherty and the 43-year-old victim were both taken to Broad Street and Girard Avenue, where they identified Paulk as the man who attacked them, police said.

SEPTA Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III said Friday: "City police provided flash information of the suspect and it got put out throughout the system," Nestel said. "We had officers all along the line checking trains. Our officer found the guy on the train. I don't think it was too long [after the attack]. It was pretty quickly that they put out the description."

Nestel said the attack appeared to be another in an "very strange flurry of mental health-related incidents."

Dougherty was a longtime Common Pleas Court judge in Philadelphia who last year won election to the Supreme Court. He was sworn in January.

His hard-fought, big-money campaign for the statewide office was supported by millions of dollars in political spending by brother John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty, the powerful leader of Electricians Local 98.

Kevin Dougherty was part of a wave of Democrats who won all three open seats on the Supreme Court in November's general election. | 215-854-2592 |