The daughter of former federal judge James Munley, Julia K. Munley is poised to fill her father’s old seat on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
The 57 year old Munley was born into a storied Pennsylvania family, with her great-grandfather, grandfather, and grandmother having served in the Pennsylvania General Assembly as Democrats. Munley attended Marywood University in Scranton, receiving a B.A. degree in 1987, and subsequently getting a law degree from Penn State Dickinson Law in 1992.
After graduating, Munley clerked for Judge Stephen McEwen with the Pennsylvania Superior Court and then joined Masterson, Braunfield, Maguire & Brown as an Associate. In 1995, Munley switched to Mazzoni & Karam, and in 2001, became a partner at Munley Law.
In 2016, Governor Tom Wolf appointed Munley to the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, where she currently serves.
History of the Seat
The seat Munley has been nominated for opened on September 30, 2022, with the move to senior status of Judge Robert Mariani. Mariani, in turn, replaced Munley’s father, Judge James Munley, in 2011.
While she has shifted firms on occasion, Munley spent the first twenty five years of her career in private practice, practicing in state and federal court. Notably, Munley argued before the Third Circuit (with a panel including then-Judge Samuel Alito) on behalf of Wayne Stevens, who was accused of sexual harassment and won a four-day jury trial. See Johnson v. Elk Lake Sch. Dist., 283 F.3d 138 (3d Cir. 2002). The Third Circuit unanimously upheld the district court’s denial of the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. See id. Munley also represented numerous Allstate agents in a suit against the insurance company alleging improper termination. See Romero v. Allstate Ins. Co., (E.D. Pa. July 6, 2016).
On the state court side, Munley has handled civil claims, including insurance litigation. See, e.g., Md. Casualty Co. v. McGrath, No. 355 MDA 2015 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2015).
From 2016, Munley has served as a Judge on the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas, which are the primary trial courts in Pennsylvania. As a judge, Munley presided over cases in civil and criminal matters, as well as domestic relations, juvenile, and family law matters. A number of Munley’s rulings in family law matters have been appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which has affirmed. See, e.g., In the Interest of MM-A, No. 928 MDA 2017 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2017); Jablonowski v. Jablonowski, No. 1481 MDA 2018 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2019); B.V. v. J.W., No. 746 MDA 2020 (Pa. Super. 2020); Jones v. Jones, No. 1647 MDA 2021 (Pa. Super. 2022).
In a notable opinion, Munley held that a plaintiff corporation could sue in Pennsylvania state court without registering with the state as it had sufficient activity within the state. See SMS Financial Ch., LLC v. Bolus Truck Parts & Towing, Inc., No. 542 MDA 2022 (Pa. Super. 2022). The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed Munley’s ruling, finding it to be “detailed and well-reasoned” and that it “accurately and thoroughly disposes of the standing issue.” See id.
Munley has donated extensively throughout her political career until her ascension to the bench. Her donations are exclusively to Democrats, including Wolf, President Biden, and former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Munley is the first Pennsylvania nominee, since Senator Eastland made the blue slip a home-state veto, who would not need a blue slip from a Republican senator to reach the bench. That being said, her extensive home state contacts and legal experience, alongside her relative lack of controversy makes her a consensus nominee.