Court appointee Butler puts community first

Court appointee Butler puts community first

Dan ButlerPhoto provided by Dan Butler
Dan ButlerPhoto provided by Dan Butler

Gov. Tom Wolf has nominated Dan Butler of Squirrel Hill to serve as magisterial district judge for the Allegheny County magisterial district court, covering cases in Squirrel Hill, Point Breeze, Shadyside and Duck Hollow.

If confirmed by the state senate, Butler will fill the vacancy left by Hugh McGough last January following McGough’s election as judge for the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

Butler is slated to serve the remaining one-and-a-half years of McGough’s six-year term on the magisterial district court. He expects the senate to announce the decision on his confirmation in the coming days.

Butler has long ties to the Pittsburgh Jewish Community and is a past chairman of the Holocaust Commission of Greater Pittsburgh. He serves on the board of the Beth Din of America, which operates as a national arbitration alternative to litigation in a Jewish context, and is a board member of Camp HASC, which runs a full summer program for disabled campers.

Butler applied for the judicial appointment last spring, he said, and was interviewed twice by a judicial advisory committee.

Butler’s appointment was announced last weekend, during the holiday of Shavuot.

“I didn’t even know I’d been appointed until after yom tov was over, when a friend called to say that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had printed a list of appointments,” Butler said.

Butler served as a hearing officer in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, family division, for five years and was a city magistrate for 11 years from 1993 to 2004. He has also served as a family court staff attorney, representing women and adult children with disabilities in collecting support.

Butler implemented programs when he was on the bench to help at-risk youth, including a nonprofit that monitors the fulfillment of community service requirements for nonviolent and first-time offenders in lieu of criminal sentences, conditioned also on the youths obtaining their GEDs.

Butler is also known for his work as an inspirational speaker; he has delivered talks at 45 colleges this year alone and has served as a scholar-in-residence at congregations all over the world.

Butler was supported in his application for magisterial district judge by Rep. Dan Frankel (D-23) and state senator Jay Costa (D-Allegheny).

“The governor was pleased to work with the senate to nominate a slate of qualified individuals to serve on courts across the commonwealth,” said Jeffrey Sheridan, Wolf’s press secretary. “From his work in the Allegheny County solicitor’s office to his prior service as a judge on Pittsburgh’s magistrate court working with at-risk youths, Dan Butler is highly qualified to serve on the Allegheny County magisterial district court, and the governor looks forward to his confirmation.”

For Butler, his new appointment is a “great opportunity,” he said, adding that he hopes to have the chance to initiate new programs to help teenagers avoid drugs and indiscriminate sex, factors that can have a life-changing impact.

He is looking forward to beginning work in his new position, he said.

“The great thing is that my grandchildren, who live next door to me — they are the fifth generation living at the same address [on Bartlett Street in Squirrel Hill] — will be able to see me doing something for my community, in my community.”

Toby Tabachnick can be reached at

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