President Judge Jack A. Panella was elected to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania in November 2003, and sworn into office as an appellate judge on January 9, 2004. He now presides over appeals from civil, criminal and family law cases. His election to the appellate court followed twelve years as a trial judge on the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County (1991-2004).
In 2004, he was appointed to the Commission For Justice Initiatives in Pennsylvania (CJI). He served as the Chair of the Public Education and Community Outreach Subcommittee. As part of his responsibilities for the CJI, Judge Panella conceived and wrote a popular short film on the history and operation of the Pennsylvania Judiciary. The film has been used as an educational tool in classrooms around the state, and can be viewed on the websites of the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. It is shown in the visitor’s center of the Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg.
Judge Panella’s first book, THE PENNSYLVANIA SEXUAL VIOLENCE BENCHBOOK was published in December 2007. The book provides judges with a comprehensive understanding of Pennsylvania’s current sexual offense laws, and is a valuable resource for judges overseeing cases dealing with sexual crimes, violence and abuse. The book has received widespread acclaim from the legal and judicial communities. His second book, a version of the Benchbook for magisterial district judges and municipal court judges, was published in 2011. He currently serves as a board member for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR).
Judge Panella also has extensive experience in judicial ethics and discipline. In 1997, he was appointed by the Supreme Court to be a judge of the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline (CJD). In June 2000, he was elected President Judge by his fellow judges. The Court of Judicial Discipline is a constitutional court, which hears charges filed by the Judicial Conduct Board against judicial officers. The Judicial Conduct Board is the investigatory and prosecutorial arm of judicial discipline in Pennsylvania. His four-year term on the CJD expired in August 2001. He was then appointed by the Supreme Court to the Judicial Conduct Board, and was eventually elected Chair. Judge Panella is the only judge in the history of Pennsylvania to have been both the President Judge of the Court of Judicial Discipline and Chair of the Judicial Conduct Board. In September 2013, Judge Panella became the first Judge in the history of Pennsylvania to be reappointed to the Court of Judicial Discipline, and then in 2016, the first Judge in the history of Pennsylvania to be elected President Judge for the second time.