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Hon. Annette M. Rizzo

Hon. Annette M. Rizzo (Ret.)

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Upcoming Events
General Biography
Practice Areas
Civil Rights
Class Action/Mass Tort
Employment Law
Personal Injury/Torts
Product Liability
Professional Liability
Real Property
Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities
Background and Education

Hon. Annette M. Rizzo (Ret.) served as a Judge for 16 years in the First Judicial District, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. She most recently served in the Trial Division, Civil Program for 11 years assigned to Motions Court rotation and the Complex Litigation Program with the majority of her time spent in the Civil Major Jury Trial Program where she oversaw a vast array of complex civil disputes. Prior to her tenure on the bench, Judge Rizzo acquired a wide range of experience tied to the corporate, public, and private sectors including her work as litigator for a prominent Mid-Atlantic firm that is the oldest continuous law firm in the United States, as Senior Counsel at one of the largest global providers of insurance, and serving as an Assistant City Solicitor for the City of Philadelphia.

In 2008, Judge Rizzo developed the Court’s Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program. The program, which continues today, is a pioneering achievement of ADR as it brings together, in conference, homeowners, lenders, attorneys, and housing counselors in an effort to keep city residents in their homes. The court-annexed mediation program has been a model for similar programs in Pennsylvania and in other jurisdictions in states such as NJ, NY, KY, IL, MD, and DE.

Judge Rizzo has testified about the Program before TARP, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the U.S. House of Representatives. She was a panelist at a White House conference invited by the United States Department of Justice and the U.S. Vice President Biden’s Middle Class Task Force. Judge Rizzo continues to speak nationally about the program at trainings for the judiciary, government agencies, mortgage finance companies, public interest entities, lender servicers, and in academia. These diverse organizations include the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, NeighborWorks America, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and many others. Internationally, Judge Rizzo participated in a European Union Conference and CLE program in Italy regarding the merits of Alternative Dispute Resolution, the Foreclosure Diversion Program, and international mediation systems.

At the invitation of Philadelphia’s City Council in 2020, Judge Rizzo joined a creative team that developed an innovative Eviction Prevention & Diversion Program modeled after the successful Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program which she established and oversaw during her tenure on the bench. This inclusive team was composed of City of Philadelphia representatives, Housing Counselors, and members of the Public Interest Law sector, the Landlord bar and CORA Good Shepherd mediation (CORA GSM), among others.

This new, collaborative and highly effective program leverages the powerful benefits of ADR to offer relief to the full range of stakeholders suffering from the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. CORA GSM oversees pre-filing mediation sessions conducted by skilled volunteer mediators who are specially trained to handle these matters. More than twenty JAMS neutrals nationwide have volunteered to participate in this pro bono effort to offer assistance to landlords and tenants and help them negotiate sustainable deals. The program has received recognition and widespread media coverage praising this practical and responsive program as a national model. Selected articles can be found in the “Professional Activities” section of this biography.

Just prior to taking the bench, Judge Rizzo worked for seven years as Senior Counsel at CIGNA Companies where she oversaw coverage litigation involving mass tort, environmental, and long-term exposure claims. She coordinated litigation management of underlying mass tort cases and oversaw multiple initiatives in the Government Affairs Division. Prior to her tenure at CIGNA Companies, Judge Rizzo served with the Philadelphia Office of the City Solicitor and then in the Litigation Department of the law firm of Rawle & Henderson, where she gained experience in litigation in matters involving general casualty, toxic tort, defamation, product liability, medical malpractice, correctional health care, and civil rights.

Judge Rizzo currently serves as an Adjunct Professor for the Temple University School of Law State Court Clinical Program, which she developed in 2007.

ADR Experience and Qualifications

In her experience on the bench and in private practice, Judge Rizzo has acquired a tremendous variety of ADR experience, including:
  • As a Judge in the First Judicial District, she presided over 650 civil trials covering a wide range of practice areas
  • Created and oversaw the First District Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program, a landmark achievement in ADR
  • As Senior Counsel at CIGNA Companies, participated in arbitrations and mediations as counsel to the client
  • Prior to her judicial career, she served as a certified arbitrator in both the Federal and State Court arbitration programs
  • As a litigator at Rawle & Henderson, participated in mediations and arbitrations

Representative Matters

  • Business/Commercial
      • Breach of contract and indebtedness, civil forfeitures, commercial foreclosures, corporate and business governance, declaratory judgments, discovery disputes, fraud, indemnification and contribution, injunctive relief, insurance claims, partnerships/joint ventures, premises liability, replevin, shareholder disputes, unfair/deceptive business practices, consumer finance litigation
  • Civil Rights
      • Correctional health care; police misconduct
  • Class Action/Mass Tort
      • Auto product liability, civil rights, environmental disasters, insurance settlements and funds, mass property damage, medical device product liability, pharmaceutical product liability
  • Employment Law
      • Discrimination, including, race, gender, age, disability, religion, national origin, and sexual orientation; employment contract disputes; FELA; labor-management relations and labor disputes; non-competition; trade secrets, retaliation; sexual harassment; wage and hour claims; whistleblower; wrongful termination
  • Environmental
      • Complex coverage litigation, superfund
  • Insurance
      • Insurance and reinsurance issues, including those relative to claims, subrogation, policy language, regulation, and business strategy
  • Personal Injury/Torts
      • Catastrophic injury; medical malpractice; nursing home litigation; wrongful death; product liability; premises liability (commercial and residential); industrial accidents; environmental; workplace accidents arising out of workers compensation claims; automotive; heavy machinery; medical; dental; failure to diagnose; birth injuries; burn injuries; construction site injuries
  • Professional Liability
      • Legal, medical
  • Real Property
      • Zoning, partitions ejectment, foreclosure

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

  • Court Awards for Mortgage Foreclosure Program:
    • Government Participation Award – VIP
    • Justice Achievement Award, National Association for Court Management
    • John Neufeld Award, Atlantic Association for Court Management
  • Individual Honors:
    • The Justinian Society of Philadelphia, Justinian Member of the Month, February 2021
    • The Honorable Louis H. Pollak Award, 2018
    • National Association of Retail Collection Attorneys (NARCA), Don Kramer Award, 2014
    • William J. Brennan, Jr. Distinguished Jurist Award, Philadelphia Bar Association, 2009
    • Golden Crowbar Award, Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges, 2009
    • Louis J. Goffman Award for pro bono service, Pennsylvania Bar Foundation, 2009
    • Judge Lisa A. Richette Outstanding Woman in the Law Award, Justinian Society, 2008
    • VIP People’s Choice Award, Philadelphia Bar Association, 2009
    • Leadership Award, Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, 2009
    • Co-Recipient of Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network Excellence Award, Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, Inc., 2009
    • Community Legal Services Champion of Justice, 2009
    • Good Deeds Award, Real Property Section, Philadelphia Bar Association, 2008
    • Take the Lead Award, Girl Scouts of America, 2010
  • Professional Activities:
    • Completed Virtual ADR training conducted by the JAMS Institute, the training arm of JAMS
    • Port Warden, Independence Seaport Museum, 2024
    • Board of Overseers, Temple University School of Law, 2024
    • Board Member, Community Legal Services/Philadelphia Legal Assistance, 2015-2024
    • Chair, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Civil Rules Committee, 2014
    • Member, Women’s Law Caucus, Temple University Beasley School of Law, 2007
    • Philadelphia Bar Association, Co-Chair, Fee Dispute Committee, 1998; Co-Chair, Membership Committee, 1997
    • Advisory Board Member, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), 2011-Present
    • AMICI of the Center for Italian Studies, University of Pennsylvania, 1983-2000
    • The Justinian Law Society, Board Member, 1990-1997
    • Member, Philadelphia/Florence Sister Cities Committee, 1989-1998
    • Lawyers’ Club, Member 1992–present; Board of Directors, 1992-1995
    • Adjunct Professor, Temple University School of Law State Court Clinical Program, which Judge Rizzo developed in 2007
    • Member, Temple Law Alumni Association
    • Member, Civil Gideon Task Force, Philadelphia Bar Association
    • Board Member, Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program
    • Member, The Temple American Inn of Court, former Board President
    • Member, City of Philadelphia’s Airport Advisory Board
    • Member and Board Vice-Chair, Casa Farnese – oldest Housing and Urban Development (HUD) subsidized independent senior living facility
  • Selected articles related to the Philadelphia Eviction Prevention & Diversion Program:

Background and Education

  • Judge, First Judicial District, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1999–2015
  • Presiding Judge, Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program of the First Judicial District, 2008-2015
  • Senior Counsel, Legal & Public Affairs, CIGNA Companies, 1992-1998
  • Senior Associate, General Litigation Unit, Rawle & Henderson, 1985-1991
  • Assistant City Solicitor, Claims Division, General Trials Unit, Philadelphia City Solicitor, 1983-1985
  • Law Clerk to the Honorable Peter F. Varia, Office of the U.S. Attorney, 1981-1983
  • J.D., Temple University School of Law, 1983
  • United States Department of Justice, Honors Program, 1982
  • B.A., University of Pennsylvania, 1980


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