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Judge Madaline Palladino Scholarship

Endowed Scholarship Honors Judge Madaline Palladino

Family and friends of the Honorable Judge Madaline Palladino have established an endowed scholarship fund in her memory. Starting with the William Allen High School graduating Class of 2016, the scholarship will be awarded to a senior girl with the highest academic rank at William Allen High School who plans to attend a four-year college. This year the chosen student will receive a scholarship of $500.

Judge Palladino graduated from William Allen High School (then known as Allentown High School) as salutatorian of the Class of 1941. She earned a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1944. She went on to earn her law degree at Columbia University, where she was one of only two women admitted in 1945.

Judge Palladino’s distinguished law career spanned more than 40 years, serving the residents of the City of Allentown, Lehigh County and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A woman of many “firsts,” Palladino became the first Republican woman to be elected to statewide office in 1983.  She served as Judge on the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania for 10 years before her retirement.  She was the first, female Assistant District Attorney of Lehigh County. Judge Palladino has been designated a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania. She served many local organizations as president and board member.

About Judge Madaline Palladino

Retired Commonwealth Court Judge Madaline Palladino, the first Republican woman elected to a statewide office in Pennsylvania, died Monday night (Nov. 9, 2015) at her home in Allentown (Salisbury Township). She was 91.

Known as a true trail blazer her entire life, Palladino achieved many “firsts.” It was in 1983, when she was elected to a full 10-year term to the Commonwealth Court, that she earned the distinction of being the first Republican woman elected to a state-wide office in Pennsylvania. She was the first female assistant district attorney in Lehigh County under District Attorney George Joseph and the first female assistant solicitor in the City of Allentown. After retiring from the bench in 1994, Palladino served as the first woman to head the Law Department as Solicitor of Lehigh County in the administration of the first female County Executive, Jane Baker.

While she was actually the third female attorney to practice in Lehigh County, for many years she was the only female lawyer in the county. The first two women were here briefly decades earlier and then left town. Palladino once joked that her male legal counterparts used to guard the restroom door since there were no women’s bathrooms in the courthouse.

Palladino quickly established a reputation for being a smart, hard-nosed practitioner who knew the law and for winning cases. She operated her 31-year law practice on true grit and tremendous ambition.

“She was a very good lawyer,” retired Lehigh County Judge Maxwell E. Davison said. “She was skilled, tough and well respected. Whatever she did, she did well.”

She was the daughter of the late Joseph and Angelina (Trentalange) Palladino, Italian immigrants who settled in Allentown’s heavily Italian 10th Ward. Auto executive Lee Iacocca, a contemporary, grew up around the corner.

“The Judge,” as she was known, grew up in a family of achievers. Her brother, Nunzio, headed the Westinghouse team that designed the reactor cores for both the submarine Nautilus and the nation’s first-full scale nuclear generating plant. He served as dean of the College of Engineering at Penn State and President Ronald Reagan appointed him chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A sister, Jeanne, became a buyer for Strawbridge& Clothier. Her brother, Robert, served as deputy director for maintenance headquarters DESCOM for the U.S. government in Chambersburg. All of her siblings predeceased her.

Palladino excelled in all academic pursuits. She was at the top of her class at Harrison Morton Junior High School and was salutatorian of the Class of 1941 at Allentown High School. In her high school yearbook, she was referred to as “Madame the Editor!” They wrote:

“Madaline is one of the very few who succeed at all they attempt. A tireless worker, editorship of this year’s Canary has taken some of her time. But she has had enough left to write the A.H.S. Notes in The Morning Call and do numerous services for many of the clubs to which she belongs.

“Madaline is one of those dual personalities whom everyone admires and envies; at times serious, intent on work; at other times, a witty sparkling companion.”

Palladino toyed with the idea of becoming a journalist. However, it was her father, a barber, who encouraged her to pursue law. She recalls that sometimes when she voiced this aspiration in school, she was told, “Oh, you’re going to the factory like all the other Italian girls.” However, a Harrison-Morton teacher, Marcia Krevsky believed her students could achieve anything they wanted to be.

Palladino earned a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. She was graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1944. Because of the war, she was allowed to accelerate. At Penn, she was president of the women’s residence hall and worked outside jobs for the Crosley and Elmer Roper polls. She also waited tables, operated a switchboard and distributed samples of Philip Morris cigarettes.

She earned her law degree from Columbia and was one of only two women admitted in 1945. With her law degree, she returned to Allentown.

Palladino found she couldn’t build a practice in the usual way through networking over lunch at downtown’s former Livingston Club. Women weren’t allowed in. When she was elected the bar association’s first woman secretary/treasurer, she was escorted to meetings at the Livingston through its back door, so members would not be outraged to have a woman walking through the club.

“The Judge” was proud of her reputation as a hard worker. In 1987, on the Commonwealth Court, she wrote 212 decisions, at the time more than any in the court’s history. Approaching the mandatory retirement age of 70, Palladino decided not to seek retention for a second term on the court. Baker, the first woman elected Lehigh County Executive in 1992, quickly seized the opportunity to appoint one of the state’s most brilliant legal minds to head up the County’s law department.

Baker launched the idea to name the ornate 1867 courtroom in the Old Lehigh County Courthouse after Palladino. The county commissioners approved. Many said naming the courtroom after the achieving child of immigrants was appropriate at a place where many immigrants were sworn in as citizens.

At the ceremony in 1995, Chief Justice Robert N. C. Nix of the State Supreme Court said, “[Madaline Palladino] has served this commonwealth with great distinction.” Father Dan Gambet said, “Madaline Palladino will always be known for her outstanding intellectual ability and her unquestionable integrity.”

Palladino’s civic and volunteer activities were impressive and numerous. She served as president of the Allentown Branch of the American Association of University Women, Quota Club, Lehigh Valley Red Cross, Lehigh Valley Torch Club, Allentown Business and Professional Women’s Club, and the Advisory Board of the Penn State University Allentown Campus.

She sat on the board of the Blue Cross of the Lehigh Valley, the board of trustees of Cedar Crest College, Muhlenberg College Board of Associates, the President’s Council for DeSales University, the advisory board of the League of Women Voters and Sacred Heart Hospital.

Judge Palladino has been designated a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania and is listed in Who’s Who of American Women.

She was a member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, a parish that Italian immigrants established in 1911 in her former neighborhood.

She is survived by four nieces, Linda Oswald, Lisa Palladino-Ghaner, Cynthia Maund and Sandra Palladino; and one nephew Joseph Palladino.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Allentown School District Foundation for The Honorable Madaline Palladino Scholarship Award for a senior girl with the highest academic rank at William Allen High School who plans to attend a four-year college. Please mail to the Allentown School District Foundation, 31 South Penn St., PO Box 328, Allentown, PA 18105.