Location: City Hall - Room 600
President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas
Judge Bonavitacola graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Temple University in 1953 and he earned his Juris Doctorate from Temple Law School in 1956. Bonavitacola served as an assistant city solicitor and trial attorney in Philadelphia before being elected to the judiciary for the Court of Common Pleas in 1973. He was subsequently retained in 1983 and 1993. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania appointed him Administrative Judge of the Trial Division of the First Judicial District in the summer of 1992.
While serving as Administrative Judge of the Trial Division, Judge Bonavitacola developed the "Day Backward/Day Forward" programs to reduce case backlog within the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. His approach to managing case inventory relied on setting fixed deadlines for trial preparation at the inception of a lawsuit. The program received national recognition because it reduced the enormous number of old lawsuits clogging Philadelphia courts. As a result of Judge Bonavitacola's efforts, a courts system that was notorious for delays was transformed into a model of judicial efficiency.
Judge Bonavitacola was also largely responsible for encouraging the use of new technologies in the Court of Common Pleas, as well as for establishing a place for the Court on the internet with the launch of the Philadelphia court system's official website http://courts.phila.gov. Up until the 1990s, the court still utilized typewriters and rotary phones as the means of conducting everyday business. Possessing a keen awareness of the importance of emerging technologies, Judge Bonavitacola used new forms of internet communication to benefit the courts mission and bolster its presence.
In March of 1996, shortly after being elected President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania appointed Judge Bonavitacola Chairman of the Governing Board of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania. As Chairman, he was responsible for the governance of Philadelphia's Common Pleas, Municipal, and Traffic Courts. In 2001, at the conclusion of his five-year term, he was succeeded by Frederica Massiah Jackson as President Judge. He retired from the bench in 2005.
Judge Bonavitacola was also the recipient of numerous awards over the course of his esteemed career. In 1996, he received the Justice William J. Brennan Jr. Distinguished Jurist Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association. In December of 2001, he was again recognized by the Philadelphia Bar Association when he was presented with the prestigious Bar Award for his lifelong commitment to the bench, the bar, and the cause of justice. Also in 2001, the Law Library of the First Judicial District, located on the sixth floor of Philadelphia's City Hall, was dedicated to Judge Bonavitacola.