Our Candidates

For retention on the Supreme Court

Madam Justice Debra Todd

In 2007, Debra Todd became the first Democratic Woman in history to be elected to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. She is now in line to become Pennsylvania’s first female Chief Justice.

Justice Todd was born in Ellwood City, PA, the daughter of the late Harry and Blanche McCloskey. Her father was a steelworker at J&L Steel. She is married to Attorney Steve Todd, and they have three adult children and four grandchildren. Justice Todd received her B.A. Degree with Honors from Chatham College; J.D. Degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, where she was a member of the Law Review; and LL.M. Degree in the Judicial Process from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Prior to serving on the bench, Justice Todd was a trial attorney in Pittsburgh for eighteen years, first as an in-house litigator for U.S. Steel Corporation, and later in private practice with an emphasis on complex civil litigation. After serving for eight years as a Judge on the PA Superior Court, she commenced her tenure on the Supreme Court in January 2008.

Justice Todd is an elected member of the American Law Institute and the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County, and is an alumna and former board member of Leadership Pittsburgh. She is a member of the Allegheny County, PA and American Bar Associations, and is a fellow of the Allegheny County and PA Bar Foundations. She is a member of the National and International Associations of Women Judges and the Women’s Bar Association of Western PA. Justice Todd is a frequent lecturer and panelist for continuing legal education programs on appellate practice and procedure, ethics, elder justice, child abuse, and veterans issues.

In 2007, Justice Todd was named the Outstanding Elected Democratic Woman of the Year by the Pennsylvania Federation of Democratic Women. She also received an Honorary Doctorate in Public Service from Chatham University; The Legal Intelligencer Women in the Profession-Woman of the Year Award; The Cornerstone Award in Law from Chatham University; the Allegheny County Bar Association’s Philip Werner Amram Award; the University of Pittsburgh Law Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award; the University of Pittsburgh’s 225th Anniversary Medallion; the Tribute to Women Leadership Award in Business & Professional Services from the Greater Pittsburgh YWCA; the Pitt Law Women’s Association’s Marjorie Matson Woman of the Year Award; and the Amen Corner’s Judge Robert E. Dauer Award for Judicial Leadership and Excellence.

In 2016, Pittsburgh Action Against Rape awarded Justice Todd its first Visionary Award, recognizing her significant impact in the lives of survivors of sexual violence. Most recently, Justice Todd was honored by the Women’s Bar Association of Western Pennsylvania with its Susan B. Anthony Award, for promoting equality in the legal profession.

Justice Todd served as Chair of the Supreme Court’s Elder Law Task Force, devoted to making life better for our Commonwealth’s seniors. She represents the Supreme Court in the leadership of the Advisory Council on Elder Justice in the Courts, the Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Fairness, and the Pennsylvania Veterans Courts. She is a board member of the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, and is a Past President of Pittsburgh Action Against Rape.

On November 7, 2017, she will stand for Retention (a Yes/No Vote) on the General Election Ballot.

Supreme Court

Dwayne Woodruff

The Honorable Dwayne D. Woodruff is a Judge on the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County – Pittsburgh, presiding primarily in the Family Court Division since 2005.

Woodruff earned a degree in Business Finance from the University of Louisville (1979) and a Juris Doctor from Duquesne University School of Law (1988), which he attended, full time at night during his professional football career with the Pittsburgh Steelers – played 12 seasons, including playing in Super Bowl XIV as a rookie in 1980, being named Steelers MVP in 1982 and serving as team captain his final three seasons.

Woodruff has the unprecedented, dual career distinction in professional sports; simultaneously practicing law with the Meyer Darragh firm and playing football for the Pittsburgh Steelers for three years from 1988 to 1990. In 1997, he became a founding partner of Woodruff Flaherty law firm; later Woodruff Flaherty & Fardo.

Judge Woodruff currently serves on the board of the National Commission of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Allegheny County Jail Oversight Board, co-chairs Pittsburgh SAFE Workgroup (Shared Accountability for Education) and serves on Educational Success & Truancy Prevention Committee (ESTP). Additionally, Judge Woodruff co-chairs the National Campaign to Stop Violence’s “Do the Write Thing Challenge”—a unique initiative which gives middle school students the opportunity to communicate their thoughts on the impact of violence in their lives and to make personal commitments to reduce violence.

He previously served as Vice-Chair of the PA Juvenile Court Procedural Rules Committee, a member of the prestigious PA Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission; as chairman of Allegheny County Interbranch Commission of Juvenile Justice, and was one of four PA Judges appointed by the PA Supreme Court to the Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice, tasked with making recommendations to the state following the Luzerne County “kids for cash” scandal.

Woodruff is also a past elected member of the Pennsylvania House of Delegates and maintains memberships on the Allegheny County and Pennsylvania Bar Associations.

Additionally, Judge Woodruff receives great pleasure presiding over CYF (Children Youth & Families) adoptions in his courtroom and considers it a privilege to be in a position to give guidance to youth, especially the young Black males who come before him in court.  He feels his work with youth is a calling with responsibilities that don’t end with the job.

Most significant among Woodruff’s many blessings are his marriage of 38 years to Joy Maxberry Woodruff and his three young adult children—Jillian Woodruff, MD, an Ob/Gyn medical doctor; Jenyce M. Woodruff, Esq., an attorney; and John B. Woodruff, II, Esq., an attorney and captain in the United States Marines. Woodruff and his family worship at Allegheny Center Alliance Church where he has served as an Elder, Growth Group Facilitator and a Marriage Ministry Mentor.

Woodruff’s community affiliates include the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh (Chair), NFL Players Alumni Association (Vice President) and a United Way of Allegheny County board member.  He is also a member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity and the NAACP (lifetime).  He formerly served the Urban Impact Foundation, American Cancer Society (Chairman of the Board), Board of Governors at Duquesne University Law School, Duquesne University Law Challenge for NEED (Chairman), Child Watch, and was an elected member of the Allegheny County Bar Association Judiciary Committee.

Among Woodruff’s honors are: University of Louisville’s “WOODRUFF ACADEMIC CENTER,” dedicated in his honor on November 2, 2006; Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission “Outstanding Leadership Award” (Nov. 2015); Mel Blount Youth Home Award (April 2015), HCEF “Champion for Children Award” (March 2015); WHIRL Magazine “Couples Who Make a Difference” (February 2014); Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame (June 2013); “Leather Helmet Award” by the Minor Pro Football Hall of Fame (May 2013); 2012 “Chairman Award” by Small Seeds Development, Inc.; 2012 NAACP Pittsburgh – Homer S. Brown Award for Legal Service; the Steelers Alumni 2011 “Old Ranger Memorial Award” for Community Service; UPMC 2011 “Community Champion Award” for DTWT; 2011 Philadelphia Legal Intelligencer Diverse Attorney Award; 2010 Life’s Work Career Achievement Award; 2010 Three Rivers Youth Hall of Fame Award; 2009 Pittsburgh Courier Man of Excellence Award; 2007 Duquesne University Law Alumni Outstanding Achievement Award; Talk Magazine Salute for Achievement; and The North Hills Monthly Magazine “Mover and Shaker of the Month” (August 2006).

Superior Court

Debbie Kunselman

In November 2005, Judge Deborah Anne Kunselman became the first woman ever elected to the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County.  Judge Kunselman is a 1992 honors’ graduate of the University of Notre Dame Law School, and a 1989 high-honors’ graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, where she was a student of the Schreyer Honors College and elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Before taking the bench, Judge Kunselman practiced for thirteen years in many areas of civil litigation, including personal injury, municipal, family and employment law.  Her varied practice consisted of representing individuals, businesses and government entities.  Notably, she successfully represented several teachers in an Equal Pay Act and Age Discrimination claim, recovering a substantial jury verdict on their behalf.

In addition to her private practice, she served for eight years (1998-2005) as the Solicitor for Beaver County, under three separate Democratic Boards of Commissioners.  She was the first woman in the county selected to serve in the capacity of Chief County Solicitor.  As Solicitor, she was responsible for a variety of legal matters and worked closely with labor on issues involving the construction of the Beaver County Jail, the Beaver County Courthouse addition, and the County parking garage.  She successfully defended, in court, the County’s Labor Stabilization Agreement in conjunction with these projects.

Elected twice to the bench, Judge Kunselman has presided over family, juvenile and civil cases, including several multi-million-dollar jury trials. She has decided many employment cases, including cases where she upheld appeals from labor arbitration awards.  In one important case, she awarded back-pay and reinstated an employee in the health-care industry, who was terminated for refusing mandatory overtime.  One of her significant contributions as a trial court judge has been to implement Act 53 in Beaver County; this process allows parents of a minor, suffering from addiction, to petition the courts to force their child to attend inpatient drug and alcohol treatment.

Judge Kunselman is recognized as a frequent speaker on legal issues.  She has taught numerous Continuing Legal Education classes to lawyers and, twice, has been asked to teach the Family Law course at Pennsylvania New Judge School.   Since 2011, she has served on the statewide Judicial Education Committee.   She often speaks at local schools on the Constitution and legal careers, and she continues to teach religious education classes at her church.  As an active member of the Beaver County Bar Association, Judge Kunselman participates annually in the Beaver County Mock Trial Competition and many other volunteer programs.

In 2017, the Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Committee rated her as “Highly Recommended” for a seat on the Pennsylvania Superior Court.  She is endorsed by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. A lifelong resident of Western Pennsylvania, Judge Kunselman and her husband Christopher are the parents of three children, Andrew (20), Robbie (17) and Katie (15).

Superior Court

Maria McLaughlin

The Honorable Maria McLaughlin is a Judge in the Court of Common Pleas, First Judicial District.  Judge McLaughlin presides over both family law and criminal law matters. Currently, Judge McLaughlin serves as the co-chair on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas FYI Committee and as the current vice-president of the Nicholas A. Cipriani Family Law American Inn of Court. She has on numerous occasions participated on judicial panels and has lectured for the Philadelphia Bar Association, the Delaware County Bar Association, PA Trial Lawyers Association and the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. Judge McLaughlin has appeared as a guest on local television and radio shows to discuss a variety of family law topics.

Judge McLaughlin is a member of the National Association of Women Judges, a member of the Widener University School of Law Alumni board, a longstanding board member of the “Do the Write Thing” national youth anti-violence campaign, and an Executive member of the Central High School’s Home and School Board. In addition to her judicial duties, Judge McLaughlin was an Acting City Commissioner for the 2015 elections.

Prior to being elected to the bench, Judge McLaughlin served as Chief Assistant District Attorney of the Child Support Enforcement Unit. She was an attorney in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office for 19 years. She was one of the youngest female Chiefs appointed by District Attorney Lynne Abraham.

Judge McLaughlin is a graduate of Widener University School of Law where she received her J.D. in 1992 and her B.S. from Penn State University in 1988. Judge McLaughlin is a member of both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar and was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the United States of America, the US District Court for the Eastern District to PA, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and the US District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Superior Court

Geoff Moulton

Geoff Moulton was sworn in as a judge of the Pennsylvania Superior Court in August 2016, after being nominated by Governor Tom Wolf and unanimously confirmed by the Pennsylvania Senate.  His term extends through the end of 2017.

Judge Moulton has devoted the bulk of his career to public service, developing a broad range of experience that serves him well as an appellate court judge.  Following his graduation from Columbia Law School in 1984, where he was managing editor of the Columbia Law Review, he served as a law clerk on both the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the United States Supreme Court.  After his clerkships, he spent a total of eight years as a federal prosecutor in Philadelphia, including four years as First Assistant United States Attorney.

In addition, Judge Moulton was chief counsel to Vice President Biden’s successor in the United States Senate, Ted Kaufman, where he worked on the creation of the Affordable Care Act and the Supreme Court nominations of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagen; chief of staff at the office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), where he worked to recover bank bailout money; and most recently, first deputy general counsel to Governor Wolf, where he successfully defended in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court the Governor’s temporary moratorium on the death penalty.  He has also represented media clients in private practice and taught for many years at Widener University Delaware Law School, including subjects – such as Evidence, Criminal Law, and Criminal Procedure – that arise with great frequency on the Superior Court.

During his pre-judicial career, Judge Moulton directed two major independent investigations, one of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Texas for the Clinton Administration’s Treasury Department and the other of the criminal investigation of Jerry Sandusky for the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.

In his spare time, Judge Moulton has been an enthusiastic conservationist.  Before going to work for the Commonwealth, he served on the board of the Natural Lands Trust, the region’s oldest and largest land conservation organization.

Judge Moulton’s wife Lisa has been a special education teacher in the Jenkintown School District for 22 years.  They live in Upper Dublin Township in Montgomery County and have two grown daughters.

Superior Court

Carolyn Nichols

Judge Carolyn H. Nichols, elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 2011, conducts felony jury trials in criminal court, with equal justice, protecting the rights of crime victims, and the accused; she works to create opportunities for positive reentry to prevent recidivism. She attended public schools and graduated from Temple University JD, LLM, and Eastern University MBA programs.

Her professional career spans over 20 years of public service, including Legislative Assistant to former Councilwoman, Augusta Clarke; Assistant City Solicitor, Deputy Secretary of External Affairs for the Mayor’s Office, and Deputy Finance Director, managing the Minority Business Enterprise Council. In 2014, Philadelphia City Council honored Judge Nichols for receiving the City Office of Economic Opportunity’s Guardian of Economic Inclusion Award for her service as MBEC Director. Judge Nichols has received recognition for her community service, including the Overbrook High School Hall of Fame. In 2007 and 2008, Judge Nichols was honored by the Philadelphia Tribune as one of the City’s Most Influential African Americans. She was co-counsel for the Huntingdon Valley swimming pool racial discrimination case in 2009, in which minority children were denied access to the Club’s pool. The case received international attention.

Judge Nichols is active in mentoring, and peace building programs in public schools to stop violence, and to disrupt the school to prison pipeline with groups such as School Dist. FACE (Family and Community Engagement). She promotes inclusion and dialogue with groups such as, Mothers in Charge to stop the senseless youth homicides; PhilaPosh for worker safety; Truman Project for international understanding; Masjidullah; Al Aqsa Islamic Society; Jewish Federation of Greater Phila; Greater Phila Hispanic Chamber Commerce; BMEC (Black male educators); and NewCore – generating conversations on race and ethnicity. Judge Nichols initiated a dialogue group with African American and Jewish professional women with the American Jewish Committee. She is a member of the Philadelphia Education Fund, Education First Compact, to improve public education in local schools. During the 2008 Presidential Campaign, she helped deploy 8,000 attorneys at polling places across PA, for PA Voter Protection, and served on the Board of Governors, Recording Academy, Philadelphia Chapter (Grammys).

Commonwealth Court

Ellen Ceisler

Judge Ceisler graduated Temple University in 1979 (B.A. in English) and Temple University Law School in 1986. After graduating law school, Judge Ceisler served as a Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney, an investigative producer for WCAU-TV News (CBS) in Philadelphia, an associate attorney in the law firm of Zarwin and Baum, and the special administrative and legal assistant, and intergovernmental liaison to Philadelphia Sheriff John Green.

From 1997-2005, Judge Ceisler served as Deputy Director and then Director of the Integrity and Accountability Office for the Philadelphia Police Department. In that capacity Judge Ceisler audited the operations, policies, and practices of the Police Department to minimize misconduct, improve the effectiveness of the Department’s operations, and enhance public confidence in the Department.

In 2005, Judge Ceisler was a consultant for the Philadelphia School District on issues pertaining to student disciplinary policies and procedures. She then served as the Director of the Special Investigations Unit of the Philadelphia City Controller’s Office.

Judge Ceisler was elected to the bench in 2007. She served in the Criminal Trial Division for the first six years presiding over jury and non-jury trials involving major felonies. In February 2013, Judge Ceisler was assigned to the Civil Trial Division, Civil Motions Court, regarded as one of the busiest and most diverse Common Pleas Courts in Pennsylvania. In Civil Motions, Judge Ceisler was responsible for handling all aspects of civil litigation motions practice and civil “emergency” motions. Judge Ceisler also served in an appellate capacity handling appeals of City of Philadelphia Agencies determinations, including the Zoning Board, Board of Licenses and Inspections, Human Relations Commission, Civil Service Commission, Liquor Control Board, Board of Revision of Taxes, Parking Authority, among others. Judge Ceisler was also responsible for handling a variety of real estate matters, including, but not limited to, Sheriff Sales (Mortgage and Tax foreclosures) and eminent domain litigation. Judge Ceisler is currently presiding over major civil trials.

Judge Ceisler has been both a volunteer attorney and a Board member for the Support Center for Child Advocates, an Executive Board member for the Eastern Pennsylvania/Delaware chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, and a Hearing Committee Member for the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Judge Ceisler is currently a Board member for New Leash on Life, a non-profit prison inmate dog-training program that both saves the lives of shelter dogs at-risk of euthanasia and gives incarcerated inmates a chance for redemption.
Judge Ceisler is currently a candidate for the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.

Judge Ceisler resides in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia. She is the proud mother of her son Daniel who is currently attending Temple Law, her daughter Hannah, who is an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, and her dog Joey.

Commonwealth Court

Irene Clark


Former Pittsburgh Municipal Judge Irene Clark’s (nee McLaughlin) law school motto, “Law in the service of human needs,” connected at her core and set Irene on a career focused in public interest law. After earning a B.S. degree in economics from the highly regarded University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 1984, Irene returned to the New York neighborhood where she grew up and enrolled in the newly founded CUNY School of Law at Queens College, which is, according to the New York Times, “a school that trains the public’s lawyers.”

Irene, one of five daughters, was born in the New York City Borough of Queens to a second generation immigrant family of Irish heritage. Before enrolling at Wharton, Irene attended community college on Long Island, and for two years, got her first taste of advocacy working with the New York Public Interest Research Group, playing a role in passing New York’s bottle bill, one of the first successful grassroots environmental initiatives in the nation. While studying at Wharton, she worked with the Community Resource Center of Philadelphia doing investigative research on blight in Kensington and South Philadelphia neighborhoods. She participated in a project in North Philadelphia exploring ways to minimize the negative effects designating a historic district in a section of Center City would have on homeowners. Her work in community revitalization led her to a position with the Philadelphia Rehabilitation Plan, Inc., which provided home repair assistance to Philadelphia homeowners.

Between graduation and law school, she continued her advocacy work with the Pennsylvania Public Interest Coalition and later traveled west to work in California for the Campaign for Economic Democracy. While in law school at CUNY, Irene worked with the Health in the Workplace Clinic, a dedicated workers’ compensation clinic, and also counseled clinic clients involved in landlord-tenant disputes. She spent her law school summers interning with Neighborhood Legal Services in Pittsburgh as well as the Steel Valley Authority, Inc. and the Tri-State Conference on Steel which were part of a Western Pennsylvania coalition attempting to save jobs by taking over plants that companies planned to abandon.

After law school in 1988, Irene moved to Pittsburgh and worked for a family practice law firm before landing a job with City Councilmember Jim Ferlo, a position more in line with her background in community development. Her work there, particularly on housing and blight issues, caught the eye of Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff, who appointed Irene to the Pittsburgh Municipal Court. For the next decade, Judge Irene Clark adjudicated thousands of cases. Her extensive background in housing and neighborhood revitalization led to her to being designated Housing Court Judge responsible for code enforcement cases. In 2002, recognizing her accomplishments in holding accountable irresponsible property owners in blighted neighborhoods, Judge Clark was honored to be a YWCA Racial Justice Award recipient. As a judge, she volunteered with the Pittsburgh Mediation Center coordinating the Minor Courts of Allegheny County Mediation Referral Project, an initiative designed to get cases into mediation and out of the court system. In 1999, she earned a Masters of Arts Degree in Conflict Resolution from Antioch University.

After her judicial tenure, Irene’s work included an affiliation with Regional Housing Legal Services where she was instrumental in the launch of the Home Ownership Preservation Project, a program which helped homeowners resolve delinquent tax issues. For five years, she ran a pro bono clinic at NeighborWorks® Western Pennsylvania assisting lower income homeowners with “tangled title” issues. And she served a leading role with a University of Pittsburgh School of Law clinic providing blight reduction legal services to reclaim long-abandoned and blighted real estate, prompting a senior legislative leader to give her the informal title of “Blight Buster”.

Since leaving the bench in 2003, Judge Clark’s legal career has centered on helping municipalities and organizations clean up and revitalize blighted and abandoned properties. She has become a leading authority in the field, as an attorney, representing clients in blight revitalization efforts and as an advocate, counseling state and local organizations on reforming laws and policies related to blight.

Irene currently resides in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood with her husband, Jessie Clark, Jr.