Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Former Pa. Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen Zappala Sr. Dies

Stephen Zappala Sr. served on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for two decades

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What to Know

  • Stephen Zappala Sr., a former chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court being remembered for his distinguished legal career and public service, has died. He was 88.
  • Zappala Sr. served in the Army and attained the rank of first lieutenant before returning to Pittsburgh to begin private law practice.
  • He then became Allegheny County’s planning director and solicitor before winning a Common Pleas court seat. In 1981, he was elected to the state Supreme Court and became chief justice in 2001 before retiring in December 2002.

Stephen Zappala Sr., a former chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court being remembered for his distinguished legal career and public service, has died. He was 88.

Officials from the William Slater II Funeral Service of Pittsburgh said Zappala Sr. died Friday.

The Pittsburgh native was born on Sept. 26, 1932, attended and played basketball for Notre Dame and Duquesne universities and got his law degree from Georgetown University Law School in 1958. He served in the Army and attained the rank of first lieutenant before returning to Pittsburgh to begin private law practice.

Zappala Sr. then became Allegheny County's planning director and solicitor before winning a Common Pleas court seat. In 1981, he was elected to the state Supreme Court and became chief justice in 2001 before retiring in December 2002.

While serving on the state’s highest court, he initiated, developed and fully integrated “the largest court automation system of its type in the country," according to the obituary posted by the funeral home. “His efforts combined and automated systems of the three appellate courts in Pennsylvania, making it much easier and efficient for litigants, counsel, and the courts to operate," it said.

Zappala Sr. was involved in and received numerous awards from civic and legal organizations. He was married to his wife, Phyllis, for 65 years.

He is survived by multiple children including his namesake, Stephen Zappala Jr., who has been Allegheny County’s district attorney since 1998; another son Gregory; and two daughters J. Michele Peck and Dana Felix.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he was “saddened" to hear of Zappala Sr.'s passing.

“His distinguished legal career, and interest in public service, benefitted our community," Fitzgerald said in a statement.

A funeral service is scheduled Saturday Calvary Cemetery Lower Mausoleum with visitation the day before at the William Slater II Funeral Service in Scott Township.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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