Attorneys exist within an adversarial system. By its very nature, the legal profession generally requires two or more parties at complete odds with each other. In civil actions, it is John Smith vs. Jane Smith. When someone is charged with a crime, it’s the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania vs. John Doe. The Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Responsibility cement a lawyer’s obligation to zealously protect and pursue a client’s legitimate interests. This pursuit of the best possible outcome frequently puts legal professionals at odds with each other, each attempting to out-argue and out-maneuver the opposing side.
Despite this often contentious and argumentative lifestyle, lawyers are colleagues who must treat each other with some level of civility and respect. Attorneys find themselves in a unique position, as their profession is self-regulating. A counselor’s actions and behaviors in a certain case will shape the law and court procedures for all future cases. Unsurprisingly, this collegiality and civility often leads to legitimate friendships between the members of the bar. Out of these friendships, The Verdict was created, a music group that remains a fixture of both the local legal profession and the area’s nightlife.
The Verdict is a home-grown rock band comprising local attorneys who play live music around the greater Lehigh Valley area. While the band has seen a series of different line-ups over the years, the group currently consists of the Hon. Emil Giordano (vocals/guitar), the Hon. Abraham Kassis (vocals), David Backenstoe, Esq. (vocals/bass), Matthew O’Donnell, Esq. (keyboards/vocals), Theodore Schick, Esq. (drums/vocals), and Brian Panella, Esq. (guitar/bass). Between them, that’s over 100 years of legal experience, won elections, court appointments, jury verdicts, and tens of thousands of people represented. When The Verdict takes the stage, neckties are removed, and the legal professions are visible only in the rear-view mirror as guitar amplifiers are switched on.
Giordano, Kassis, and Backenstoe continue to serve as the cornerstones of the group, being the longest-serving members of The Verdict. The group started when the three decided to put together a band for a bar association function over five years ago. After a successful first showing, it only made sense for the group to continue playing together.
“While I was campaigning for Superior Court, I played with Judge Chris Feliciano and his band in Westmoreland County, says Giordano. “I told Marybeth Leeson, the Executive Director of the Northampton County Bar Association, about this band composed of judges and attorneys. Leeson and Alyssa Lopiano-Reilly, Esq., the president of the Northampton Bar Association, liked the idea of a local band and that colleagues playing together may increase attendance at the Bar Association outing.
“At the time, I was still serving as a Judge of the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas,” Giordano continued. “After speaking with Leeson and Lopiano-Reilly, I thought no one would participate. I called a 7:00 a.m. with Backenstoe, William Blake, Esq., Anthony Rybak, Esq., Richard Santee, Esq., and Richard Santee Jr., Esq., all people I knew played instruments. To my surprise, everyone was on board, and we started practicing right away. Then we found Jackie Holmes, Esq. She really brought a rocking attitude to the group that we needed. While she is no longer with the group, her interest and stage presence really helped The Verdict establish itself as an actual act, not just a novelty.”
Generally playing a live show at least once a month, these barristers turned party-rock musicians change their setlist regularly to keep the fun going for the crowd. The Verdict also has special guests from time to time, inviting locals to take the stage and channel their inner rock star. From the Hon. Anthony Beltrami playing a remarkable version of Van Halen’s “Jump” to Elizabeth Marcon, Esq., soothing the crowd with Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” guests will vary up the group’s normal stable of songs with energy.
While the lineup has changed over time, The Verdict’s mission has stood firm: give everyone a great time with some good music and a friendly atmosphere. Check out the Verdict’s Facebook page for show details, and throw in a request while you are at it!