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Cranberry resident appointed first woman chief justice of state Supreme Court

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd, right, shakes hands with Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, in Pittsburgh. Todd was appointed Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court on Saturday, making her the first woman to hold the position. Associated Press

Debra Todd has been a member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court since she was elected in 2007, making her the judge with the longest continuous service on the court.

On Saturday, the 64-year-old Cranberry Township resident was appointed Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court after the death of Chief Justice Max Baer on Saturday at age 74.

Marilyn Horan, a judge in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh for the Western District of Pennsylvania, said she has known Todd for years and has worked with her on several occasions. She said Todd will be a great role model for lawyers and aspiring judges, especially other women in those positions.

“She will be excellent. She brings a great work ethic, a strong perspective and will be a great chief justice for us,” she said. “She really understands her job and knows what needs to be done.”

Horan also said she knew Baer for about as long as she has known Todd. She said his death is a tragic loss.

“I knew him since he was a common pleas judge. We served on many committees together,” she said. “It is so unfortunate for him and his family.”

Todd could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Debra Todd

Todd is a native of Ellwood City. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Chatham College in 1979 and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 1982 and the University of Virginia School of Law in 2004, according to her biography on the state court website.

Todd became a litigation attorney with U.S. Steel, where she served from 1982 until 1987, and then worked at a private law practice from 1987 until 1999.

She is a member of the National Association of Women Judges and the International Association of Women Judges, and she is on the board of directors for the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and a past president for Pittsburgh Action Against Rape.

Among Todd’s recent awards are the Susan B. Anthony Award for promoting equality in the legal profession from the Women’s Bar Association of Western Pennsylvania in 2017; the Visionary Award from Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, which recognizes individuals who have made a significant impact in the lives of survivors of sexual violence, in 2016; the Judge Robert E. Dauer Award for judicial leadership and excellence from Amen Corner in 2015; and the University of Pittsburgh’s 225th Anniversary Medallion, which recognizes alumni who have built better lives through their work, in 2013, according to her judge’s biography.

Todd was elected a judge of the Pennsylvania Superior Court in 1999 and elected to the state Supreme Court in 2007. She was retained in 2017. Among the associations she is a member of is the Butler County Bar Association.

Todd’s term in the Supreme Court is set to run from January 2018 to December 2027, according to the court’s website.

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