Longtime Pittsburgh Judge Donna Jo McDaniel, who recently was removed from two sex offender cases by the state Superior Court, will resign Jan. 31, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. McDaniel has been a judge for 33 years. She said, “I have strived to lead my courtroom in a judicial style that empowers victims of domestic and sexual abuse, while maintaining the rights of the accused.” McDaniel, 72, has long been heralded for sticking up for victims, often giving them a voice they may otherwise not have felt they had.
It was common for her to address victims of sexual assault — both adults and children — at the conclusion of their cases to commend them for their courage in testifying. She often gave them words of encouragement, too, to try to help them move forward. In recent years, McDaniel has come under fire from the Pennsylvania Superior Court for what it considered to be a pattern of over-sentencing sex offenders before her. Twice, the appellate court has returned cases to her for resentencing because the penalties she meted out were longer than the law called for. Twice, she sentenced those defendants to the same penalty. She also has clashed with attorneys from the Public Defender’s office who were advocating for those clients.