When Judge Hugh Fitzpatrick McGough was named a “Legal Champion” by the Allegheny County Bar Association in April 2014, he was in his third year of service on the Magisterial District Court, which is most people’s point of first contact with the judicial system. The award reflects Hugh’s efforts as a judge – and during his 20 years of law practice – to achieve justice for all people, including individuals and groups who have been marginalized and disadvantaged.
Dividing his service between Pittsburgh City Court and a neighborhood courtroom in the East End of the City, Judge McGough has a docket heavy with criminal, landlord-tenant and truancy cases. Regardless of the category of the case, he has found some recurring culprits: illegal drugs and guns, joblessness and poverty, mental illness and family dysfunction. Judge McGough’s history of pro bono legal service, his strong work ethic and his sense of compassion combine to make him fair and effective on the bench, where judges make very important decisions about people’s lives, one life at a time.
Judge McGough grew up in Pittsburgh on the Oakland/Shadyside border, equidistant from the Carnegie Museums and the bustling Centre Avenue business district. His father, Walter McGough, was an attorney in Pittsburgh for 50 years. His mother, Jane Fitzpatrick McGough, retired from teaching to raise her family. Together, his parents taught Hugh to respect the law and to work for justice.
With degrees from Columbia College and Northwestern University, Hugh worked as a journalist with WPXI and KDKA in the 1980s, covering the collapse of the steel industry, the trials and triumphs of organ transplantation, and the arrival of the AIDS epidemic. Determined to make a difference, he worked his way through Pitt Law School while producing KDKA’s Noon News with the late Bill and Patti Burns.
As a young attorney with the firm Meyer, Unkovic and Scott, Hugh fought a large insurance company to win health coverage for a child with a devastating medical condition. In 1998, he joined the City Solicitor’s Office to help the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police achieve reforms required by a Consent Decree that alleged a “pattern and practice” of misconduct by officers. Hugh also defended the constitutionality of Pittsburgh’s LGBT Rights Ordinance and an ordinance protecting union janitors from unfairly losing their jobs.
Hugh returned to the private sector in 2007, focusing on employment, municipal and criminal law. He continued to play a role in police reform and oversight, serving as Solicitor for the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board. He was Special Counsel to UNITE HERE Local 57 and to the Green Building Alliance. And he successfully defended Pittsburgh’s City Council President and three Council members against a retaliatory lawsuit filed by Lamar Advertising due to their challenge of an improperly issued electronic billboard permit.
One of Hugh’s final cases before becoming a judge was a federal court “whistle-blower” action to keep law enforcement officers safe from defective bullets sold nation-wide by a leading ammunitions manufacturer. The case recovered $300,000 for taxpayers.
Judge McGough has the highest rating – “highly recommended” – from the Allegheny County Bar Association for service on the Court of Common Pleas.
Hugh was an early volunteer with the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force (“PATF”), which he served as Board President and as a pro bono attorney for people with AIDS/HIV. In 2008, he received PATF’s “Founders Award” for 20 years of volunteer service. Hugh has also volunteered with East End Cooperative Ministries, the Animal Rescue League, and is former Board President of the Gemini Children’s Theater in Point Breeze.
Since 2009, Hugh has served on the Allegheny County Human Relations Commission, and was its Chairperson for two years. The Commission is a citizen-led group charged by law with promoting good relations among diverse residents of the County and investigating local allegations of illegal discrimination.
Hugh is married to Kris Rust, a public high school teacher and member of the Pennsylvania State Education Association. Hugh and Kris met in 2002 in the Renaissance City Choir, Pittsburgh’s LGBT chorus. They live in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood – often with a recently graduated, out-of-town nephew or niece exploring life in the Steel City. Hugh and Kris thank the Animal Rescue League for three members of their family: Debbie and Rocky, both big black dogs, and Rufus, an orange tabby cat.