Judge Donna Jo McDaniel
Allied Professional Award
Award Recipient: Donna Jo McDaniel, President Judge, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas
Nominator: Shirl Regan, Executive Director, Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh
Since the late 1970s/early 80s, when Donna Jo McDaniel was a practicing attorney she has been supporting crime victims and the work of victim service agencies. After being elected as Judge of the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas in 1985, Judge McDaniel recognized the need for an improved criminal justice system response to crimes of domestic violence.
In 1995, Judge McDaniel served as the Pennsylvania's first chairperson of the STOP Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Commission, where she provided leadership to maximize new funds under VAWA to improve the response across the state to crimes of violence against women.
Judge McDaniel has made many changes and contributions to victim services work in Allegheny County. In 2002, Judge McDaniel volunteered to increase her own caseload and hold specialized Domestic Violence sessions in her criminal court for violations of Protection from Abuse (PFA) orders. This change dramatically increased the Court's ability to hold batters accountable and ensure victim safety. Several years later, the PFA violation court sessions were expanded to a formal Domestic Violence Court where PFA Violations were heard along with any repeat Domestic Violence cases. Dramatic improvement in support for victims and consequences for batters have occurred since this implementation.
Judge McDaniel leads her courtroom in a judicial style that empowers victims. She is understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence, respectful and non-blaming in her listening and questioning. Judge McDaniel does not permit courtroom intimidation, minimize the abuse, or blame victims causing them to feel entrapped in the batter's abuse.
Since being elected to the Court of Common Pleas, Judge McDaniel has served in the Criminal Division where she has been appointed as Administrative Judge for a total of 6 years, and has now been elected to a five year term as President Judge for the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas overseeing 49 judges.
Judge McDaniel has assisted with many justice system trainings and collaborative projects. She appeared as a presenter at a Domestic Violence Training for Magisterial District Judges and Common Pleas Judges, where she made statements that crimes of domestic violence must be taken seriously by all judges in our courts. She also co-presented at a 3 hour training with PCADV where judges received critical updates and training on both legal updates and the dynamics of domestic violence. Judge McDaniel has also assisted the Center for Victims of Violence and Crime to train Common Pleas Judges on the Impact of Trauma.
On behalf of victims of crime and the victim service's field, we thank you Judge McDaniel for your innovation, collaboration and unfailing commitment to victims of crime.