NORRISTOWN — Three lawyers on the Democratic ballot easily defeated three GOP candidates for three seats up for grabs on the Montgomery County bench and will be sworn-in come January.
Melissa Schwartz Sterling, Virgil B. Walker and Henry S. Hilles III handily defeated Republican candidates Matthew Hovey, Robert A. Zigmund and Gregg Richman during Tuesday’s general election, according to final but unofficial results.
With all 425 precincts reporting, Sterling received 128,076 votes while Walker received 120,812 votes and Hilles garnered 119,423 votes.
Hovey, with 74,082 votes and Zigmund with 72,250 votes trailed in the voting and Richman, who captured 70,025 votes, came in a distant sixth place, according to unofficial results.
The three top vote-getters were elected to 10-year judicial terms that begin in January. The current annual salary of a Common Pleas Court judge is $183,184.
Prior to the election, the Montgomery Bar Association’s Autonomous Judiciary Committee gave a “Highly Recommended” rating to Walker and “Recommended” ratings to both Hilles and Sterling.
The bar association issued “Not Recommended” ratings for Hovey, Zigmund and Richman, maintaining “these candidates do not possess the qualifications to serve” as judge.
Sterling, 49, of Whitemarsh, is a 1996 graduate of Widener University School of Law and is a partner in the Delaware County law office of Naulty, Scaricamazza & McDevitt. Joining the firm in 1997, Sterling concentrated her practice in the area of workers’ compensation.
Three candidates on #Democratic ballot won seats on #MontcoPa bench in Tuesday’s election. They are Melissa Schwartz Sterling with 126,837 votes; Virgil B. Walker with 119,696 votes & Henry S. Hilles III with 118,305 votes.422 of 425 precincts reporting #montcovote pic.twitter.com/2jbyvSll0Y— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) November 6, 2019
“I want to be a judge to make a difference in people’s lives,” Sterling, who also is serving her second term as a supervisor in Whitemarsh Township, currently as chairwoman, said recently.
Sterling was on the Board of Young Lawyers Division of the Philadelphia Bar Association, serving as chair, chair-elect and financial secretary between 2001 and 2003 and she served on the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association from 2004-2007, according to her biography.
Walker, 61, of Dresher, obtained his law degree from North Carolina Central University in 1984 and previously worked as an arbitrator and chief assistant city solicitor in Philadelphia. Walker also worked as an assistant public defender in 1988 and from 1991 to 2018 he was an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania where he investigated and prosecuted criminal cases, including fraud, bank robberies, narcotics trafficking, and white-collar crime, according to his resume.
“I have proudly spent my entire career in the courtroom. I want to be a judge because it is a continuation of my community service. I love being a public servant and feel that there is no higher calling than to serve your fellow man,” Walker said recently.
Montgomery Bar Association’s Autonomous Judiciary Committee gave “Highly Recommended” rating to Virgil Walker & “Recommended” ratings to Henry Hilles III & Melissa Schwartz Sterling. Hovey, Zigmund & Richmanreceived “Not Recommended” ratings for #MontcoPa judge https://t.co/3t0WHyImj5— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) November 6, 2019
A 1994 graduate of Temple University School of Law, Hilles was an associate with Dilworth, Paxson, LLP, Philadelphia, from 1994 to 1996. Hilles then served as a Montgomery County prosecutor from 1996 to 1999 in the major crimes unit. Hilles was an associate with the Norristown law office of Michael J. D’Aniello from 1999 to 2003, focusing primarily on civil litigation.
Since 2003, Hilles has operated his own law office, handling criminal defense, civil and Orphans’ Court matters. Hilles also served as an assistant county solicitor from 2008 to 2012.
“I have great respect for the rule of law and the role judges play in our judicial system. The concept of judicial independence is critical to American society and works best when judges are determined to properly interpret and apply the law to dispense justice,” Hilles, 53, of Worcester, said recently.
Hovey, 35, of Pottstown, is a 2009 graduate of Villanova University School of Law and currently is a lawyer at Wolf Baldwin and Associates where his practice focuses on municipal law and civil litigation.
Zigmund, 58, of Glenside, is a graduate of Capital University Law School and since 1988 he has been in private practice, specializing in business, family, real estate, bankruptcy, criminal and employment law as well as wills and estates.
Richman, 46, is in private practice in Upper Moreland.