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Margherita-Patti Worthington, President Judge, Court of Common Pleas 43rd District

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What inspires you as a professional in criminal justice?

I’m always challenged by new problems and new solutions, which gives me a chance to participate in positive change and improvement. Courts are being asked to solve societal problems, a significant shift in their historic role.
I’m constantly inspired by the strength and resilience of victims and their families; by their ability to forgive and understand, showing us that societal punishments and forgiveness can co-exist; and by those who are struggling to combat the monster that is the opioid epidemic. Most reassuring are the people I work with, who are dedicated to helping people in need. They handle overwhelming caseloads with limited resources, trying to solve problems that many believe unsolvable.

How many years are you in this profession?
I was a practicing attorney for 13 years before election to the bench in 1999. I’ve served as a Trial Judge for 18 years and have been the President Judge of the 43rd Judicial District for the last six years.

Talk about your journey as a woman at the top of your field and the challenges you faced.
In school I began to see subtle differences in treatment between women and men. Innuendo was rampant in the workplace and I have certainly been asked inappropriate questions and been in uncomfortable situations. Unfortunately, harassment and sexism are still rampant despite the policies and regulations against them.   With the sustained attention these issues are finally receiving, I hope those speaking out today will have more positive results than we did in the past.
Working full-time and caring for a family is difficult, tiring and sometimes frustrating. You always feel something or someone is suffering; it’s a juggling act, not a balancing act. I was blessed with great, supportive friends and family.

Why did you get into this line of work?
I believe that a judge can help people and make a difference in our community.

Do you sit on any boards?
I sat on the boards of the American Cancer Society and the American Red Cross, Monroe Chapters. I have been appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to its IOLTA board, which manages funds for programs for indigent persons in civil cases, completing my six-year term as vice-chair in 2015.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court appointed me to the State Criminal Rules Committee and I’ve just begun my second three-year term as vice-chair. I chair the MET (Monitoring and Evaluation Team) and co-chaired the Language Access Advisory Group, developing a statewide plan for increased accessibility to the courts.
I served on the Pennsylvania Sentencing Commission Strategic Planning Workgroup, and as an officer, then President of the Pennsylvania State Trial Judges Conference. I’m currently Chair of the Past Presidents Committee and Co-Chair of the President Judges Committee.

In what ways have you learned to become adaptable and flexible at work?
In running and improving the Court, the biggest challenge is doing a lot with very little.  Our operating budget and staffing are minimal; add a very old and crowded work space, and being efficient and innovative is difficult. That said, we must move forward in spite of these difficulties, and be innovative, using technology to operate more efficiently.

What is your advice to women seeking to rise in their profession?
Be yourself! Work hard. Have passion for what you do. Help each other. Speak up. Take care of yourself. Trust your instincts. And, when things are not right, be the one who makes them right.

How would you define “success”?
Waking up every morning and thanking God for what I’ve been given; my family, friends, colleagues, and life; and being grateful and practicing that gratitude.

What are your strengths?
I see my faults and try to improve myself. I NEVER give up, I view adversity as a challenge, I work hard, I try to be prepared, I listen, I am empathetic, I care deeply and I love deeply.

How do you develop yourself and continue to improve?
I never stop learning. I stay up-to-date on the law, am involved in statewide committees and speak with my colleagues regarding best practices.
I like to challenge myself both mentally and physically. Several years ago, I camped and rafted the Grand Canyon for two weeks, living outside, sleeping on a tarp and “bathing” in the Colorado River. I’ve run numerous half-marathons, the Marine Corps Marathon, a triathlon and the Civilian Military Combine, requiring discipline and training.

What are the three biggest accomplishments in your life?
The biggest accomplishment is my family. I have been married for 31 years and we have two wonderful children. With hard work and luck, we’ve managed to raise two smart, polite, and compassionate children who are hard-working and care deeply about their family, friends and communities.
Next is my work in the Court. Our community has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. I believe that in my six years as President Judge I’ve moved the Court forward in its use of technology, review of business processes and collaboration on projects involving multiple stakeholders. I initiated an annual training program for Court employees, helping them better understand how each is an integral part of the Court.
Finally, but not lastly, I immersed myself in the world of cancer care while my father and younger sister were fighting the diseases that would ultimately take their lives. It was an incredibly difficult time in my life and for my family, but my dad and sister were so brave and strong. They gave me strength.

What are your “words to live by”?
Lead by example; work hard; be honest with yourself and others; keep your word; take what you do seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously; it’s more important to be a good listener than a great orator; say or do something kind for at least one person every day; laugh, smile and tell the people you love that you love them.
Waking up every morning and thanking God for what I’ve been given; my family, friends, colleagues, and life; and being grateful and practicing that gratitude.

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