Jack Anthony Panella (born May 4, 1955) is the President Judge of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. He assumed office on the Superior Court on January 9, 2004. Prior to his election to the Superior Court, he was a Judge on the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, where he served from October 25, 1991, to December 31, 2003.
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 J.D. degree in 1980 from The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, where he received the American Jurisprudence award from The Lawyers Co-Operative Publishing Company for the highest academic grade in Contracts.
Following graduation, he was selected to be a Judicial Law Clerk in the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Following his clerkship, 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.
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. In May 1987, he was the youngest attorney in the history of Northampton County to be selected as the County Solicitor.
In 2002, he was selected to join the United States Army National Guard to visit United States troops in Germany and Bosnia. The trip was a cooperative effort of the 28th Infantry Division with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Committee.
In 2005, President Judge Panella received the high honor of “Cavaliere” by the Republic of Italy. The Italian President awards the honor of “Cavaliere” to individuals of Italian descent living abroad who have provided outstanding leadership and service to the positive image of Italy and Italians.
On September 27, 2019, President Judge Panella received the Outstanding Service Award from the Justinian Society of Philadelphia.
President Judge Panella is a member of the American Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and the Northampton County, Luzerne County, and Philadelphia Bar Associations. He is also a member of the Council of Chief Judges of the State Courts of Appeal.
President Judge Panella’s election to the 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, and 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. He presided over civil, criminal, and family law cases and was also the Administrative Judge for Asbestos Litigation, which involved complex mass tort litigation.
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. In recognition of the success of this program, Judge Panella received the President’s Award from the Conference of State Trial Judges in 2002.
In his capacity as a trial judge, Judge Panella was also a member of the Judicial Ethics Committee of the Conference of State Trial Judges.
As a trial judge, he presided over a well-publicized murder trial which 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, and eventually convicted, of the murder of Devon Guzman.
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. He now presides over appeals from civil, criminal and family law cases. He served a five-year term as the statewide Administrative Judge for Wiretap & Electronic Surveillance in Pennsylvania. He was elected President Judge of the Superior Court in December 2018.
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 As part of his responsibilities for the CJI, President Judge Panella conceived and wrote a popular short film on the history and operation of the Pennsylvania Judiciary.
Judicial Ethics and Discipline
President Judge Panella has 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), a constitutional court that hears charges filed by the Judicial Conduct Board against judicial officers. 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. 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.
In 2013, President Judge Panella became the only judge to be reappointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to the Court of Judicial Discipline. He served a four-year term and was again elected the President Judge in 2017.
Judicial & Legal Publications
President Judge Panella has written three books and authored other publications in the judicial and legal fields.
President 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. The book has received very favorable reviews. The Third Edition of the Benchbook was published in 2015 and is available on the websites of the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, the Conference of State Trial Judges, and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
President Judge Panella’s second book, The Pennsylvania Sexual Violence Benchbook, Magisterial District Court Edition, was published in 2010. This version of the benchbook was designed to assist Magisterial District Court Judges, and addresses the issues facing MDJ’s during the earlier proceedings in a prosecution for sexual violence.
In recognition of his work in judicial education regarding crimes of sexual violence, Judge Panella received the national recognition of the NSVRC Visionary Voice Award in 2017 by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
His third book, The Pennsylvania Restitution Benchbook, was published in 2020 by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.
Judicial Bench Cards
The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts has published two sets of Bench Cards authored by President Judge Panella:
- Judicial Bench Cards: Relinquishment of Firearms in Domestic Violence Cases, Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (2019)
- Judicial Bench Cards: Crimes of Sexual Violence, Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (2018)
Article: JUDICIAL OUTREACH – Finding Common Ground Between Governmental Branches: The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Partners Program, American Bar Association, Judges Journal (2004).
Film Script: President Judge Panella wrote the film script for the popular video The Judicial Branch, Pennsylvania’s Unified Judicial System, produced by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts and the Pennsylvania Commission for Justice Initiatives (2007).