PA Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille has been awarded the Bar Medal, the highest honor conferred by the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He is the eleventh person to receive the award in the 119-year history of the association.
The Bar Medal is presented to a PBA member whose efforts have resulted in significant improvement in the administration of justice or the legal profession, or who has performed outstanding service to the association, profession or the community.
"Under Justice Castille's leadership, significant strides have been made in the funding of civil legal aid for Pennsylvania's most vulnerable citizens," said PBA President Francis X. O'Connor, who presented the award to Castille during the PBA House of Delegates meeting on November 21 in Harrisburg.
"Chief Justice Castille has called on every Pennsylvania lawyer to increase pro bono service to low-income Pennsylvanians. He also led the creation of the loan repayment assistance program, which helps participating lawyers in the public service sector better manage their educational debts so they can better afford to remain in their careers," O'Connor said.
In addition, Castille is honorary chair of the Pennsylvania Civil Legal Justice Coalition, a statewide coalition of leaders from the Pennsylvania, Allegheny County, Dauphin County and Philadelphia bar associations, representatives from the public interest community; and other stakeholders who address unmet needs for civil legal services.
Castille began his career in public service as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corp in 1966, the same year that he graduated from Auburn University.
His heroic service as a rifle platoon commander in Vietnam was recognized with the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" for valor; two Purple Heart medals; the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross; the Navy Presidential Unit Citation; a Navy Unit Commendation; and Combat Action Ribbon.
After his medical retirement from military service, he spent 15 months in the Philadelphia Hospital recovering from his war injuries before pursuing a law degree at the University of Virginia School of Law. While there, he served as vice president of the student body and earned membership in the Raven's Society through his outstanding scholarship and leadership.
Upon graduation from law school, he joined the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and served the citizens of Pennsylvania as Philadelphia's assistant and deputy district attorney for 14 years before being twice elected as district attorney of Philadelphia.
As district attorney, he tried more than 200 jury trials and thousands of non-jury trials. He co-drafted legislation that fostered a sea change in the way the criminal justice system treated juvenile offenders.
He created the juvenile division in the District Attorney's Office and launched the Philadelphia's Youth Aid Panels, which was one of Pennsylvania's first diversionary programs for juvenile offenders, and the Juvenile Habitual Offenders Unit to deal with repeat offenders.
Castille was elected to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1993, having spent two prior years in private law practice at Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay. He was re-elected in 2003 and 2013 by Pennsylvania voters in retention elections.
He was elevated to chief justice of Pennsylvania in 2008, becoming the 55th chief justice of the nation's oldest appellate court and the leader of Pennsylvania's third branch of government.
During his 20-year tenure on the court, Castille authored more than 400 majority opinions and more than 200 dissents in cases affecting every citizen of Pennsylvania.Previous recipients of the PBA Bar Medal include Gilbert Nurick (1978), Judge James Bowman (posthumously, 1980), Stanley Siegel (1987), Joseph Jones (1991), Thomas Cooper (1994), William Hoffmeyer (1997), Ralph Snyder (1999), H. Reginald Belden Jr. (2004), Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy (2007) and Professor Louis Del Duca (2014).