Montgomery County President Judge Carolyn Carluccio has been in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, some more than once, as she campaigns for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. It is part of her strategy to outwork her opponent in the upcoming election.
And, she told DVJournal as she traveled to Pittsburgh, it comes with an added benefit.
“It’s such a beautiful state,” said Carluccio. “All the undeveloped land, the mountains, the valleys.”
Carluccio is running against Superior Court Judge Daniel Caffery (D) for the seat previously held by Justice Max Baer, who died last September. And while the Pennsylvania scenery is pretty, the politics isn’t.
Carluccio is being attacked by the Planned Parenthood Votes political action committee, which runs television ads claiming she would do away with abortion in the state.
“It’s fascinating to me when I say I will follow the law. It has made my opponents a little bit crazy,” said Carluccio. “I’ve been very consistent about that. The law in Pennsylvania is that abortion is legal up until 24 weeks. I will apply (that law) because that’s my job. I’m not going to change anything. But for some reason, they are insistent on saying things that are not true. The reality is abortion is not even relevant to this race. It will never get before us because in order for abortion to get before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, it needs to get through a pro-life legislature and a pro-choice governor. That would be very challenging. So I don’t ever see it coming before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.”
“It’s really simple,” she said. “I am a judge who understands her role is to follow the law and to uphold our constitution. And that’s as simple as it gets.”
Carluccio is a Montgomery County native.
“I was born in Norristown and grew up right outside Norristown, in West Norriton,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to work with people and help people. And I found the law was an avenue for that.”
“I also had an uncle (Judge Joseph Smyth) who was a big influence on my life and was a lawyer,” she said. “He was my mom’s (Dorothy) younger brother. He was a football player for Notre Dame. He would babysit for my sister and me, and we thought he was pretty cool. And he became a very young district attorney in Montgomery County.”
Gov. Dick Thornburgh appointed Smyth to the court “at a very young age.”
“And the cool part is he is still on the Montgomery County bench with me. He’s in his last year as a senior judge. It’s been wonderful. He’s so smart and kind, and he’s been a great role model for me.”
Before she was elected to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in 2009, Carluccio was an Assistant U.S. Attorney, prosecuting drug dealers, bank robbers, and money launderers. She was Montgomery County’s first woman chief public defender and its first woman chief deputy solicitor.
She has served in the family, criminal, and civil divisions on the court. Last year, all the judges on the court unanimously voted for her to be the president judge. She is the first woman to hold that position.
“I’ve done public service my entire career,” said Carluccio. “It’s what I love.”
She was elected president of the Montgomery Bar Association in her second year on the bench.
Following in her uncle’s footsteps, she “was thrilled to be president judge in Montgomery County. That was really the ultimate goal I had set for myself. But then people came to me and said, ‘You’re the perfect person for this (to serve on the state Supreme Court).’”
She declined at first but was asked again. So, she talked to her husband and uncle, and they “right away said, ‘This is an opportunity you need to take. You’d be perfect for this. And not everybody gets this opportunity.’”
Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Lawrence Tabas said of Carluccio, “She is unbelievable. She’s been all over the state. This is a person who was elected president judge unanimously by her fellow judges, most of whom are Democrats. The vilification of her by people on the Left is so misplaced.”
Liz Preate Havey, a lawyer and the secretary of the state GOP, said, “Judge Carluccio is extremely well regarded in the legal community across the state and recognized as such by the Pennsylvania Bar Association when it highly recommended her for Supreme Court and the Pennsylvania State Trial Judges when it recently elected her as its president. The campaign attacks on her by Democrats are patently false and really an attack on the judiciary itself. It’s proof that Judge Carluccio is the best candidate for the Supreme Court.”
“I have a lot of empathy,” Carluccio said. “I’m a very good listener. And those qualities have certainly helped me at this level. But the one quality I think is most remarkable, and the one that is most important is the fact that I follow the law, even when I don’t like it. And even when I don’t agree with it because that’s my job. I will not be an activist judge.”
If elected, she would be the only justice from the suburbs. There are four from cities: one from Philadelphia and three from Pittsburgh. Two are from rural counties.
Also, it would be the first time in state history that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would be majority female, she said. The court now has two Republicans and four Democrats, so Carluccio’s election would not change the court majority.
“And there has not been an Italian American up there in 20 years,” she said.
When she’s not working, Carluccio loves to read and belongs to two book clubs.
“I probably listen to five books a month,” she said. She also enjoys exercising and attends a 6:15 a.m. boot camp all year.
“Those women are my rocks,” Carluccio said. “Girlfriends and family—not in that order—are very important to me.”
Carluccio went to Marshall Street Elementary in Norristown, then to Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, before earning her B.A. from Dickinson College and her J.D. from Widener University.
Carluccio and her husband, Tom, live in Blue Bell and have three grown children: Andrew, Charlie, and Joseph.