Five Lawyers Seek Seats On Chester County Plea Court Bench | New
The five Chester County attorneys vying for two judicial appointments open to the Common Pleas Court all have significant legal experience in both the county and the region, a track record that establishes their good faith for the post of court of first instance.
Each candidate cites distinguishing factors on their individual resume that they believe set them apart from those they are running against.
For Democrat Carlos Barraza, it’s not just his 18-year career as a prosecutor, but also his ethnicity – if elected, he would be the first Mexican-American to sit on the county bench.
“I’m the only candidate who brings something that hasn’t been on our bench for 17 years, which is representation through diversity,” he told MediaNews Group.
For Republican Lou Mincarelli, it is his story of being both a prosecutor and defense lawyer, serving as a victim and defender of children in court, and working in civil law. “My diversity and the depth of my legal experience sets me apart,” he said in an email. “I am and have always been a lawyer at the trial.”
For Republican PJ Redmond, it is the length and breadth of his work as a lawyer and his career as a county public defender representing needy clients after leaving private practice. “It has been a special gift to represent this segment of the population after a few decades of experience with people and cases,” he said.
For Democrat Alita Rovito, it was her judicial experience as a family court master, a position she held for 15 years after leaving the county district attorney’s office. “Having run a courtroom, I understand how litigation works in a courtroom in order to be efficient while offering litigants a fair and respectful process,” she explained.
And for Democrat Anthony Verwey, it’s not just his ability to move from one area of law to another that stems from 31 years of practice, but also his personal journey. “I believe that growing up in poverty, serving in the military, then studying law gives me a unique perspective,” he said.
The five are also split between those who seek only the Democratic Party nomination – Barraza and Verwey – and those who have cross-tabled the Democratic and Republican ballots – Mincarelli, Redmond and Rovito.
Judicial candidates in Pennsylvania are permitted to solicit multi-party nominations. When asked if they support cross-ranking options, Barraza and Verwey said they were in favor of open primaries or judicial seat elections, while Mincarelli, Rovito and Redmond touted their support for voters from both political parties as qualified candidates for the seat.
Common Pleas Court judges are those who hear first instance cases in all areas of law, criminal, civil and family. They are not asked to rule on constitutional issues such as freedom of speech or possession of firearms, but to apply the law to an individual court case – someone suing a neighbor for trespassing or fighting an arrest for rape or theft.
In Pennsylvania, trial court judges serve 10-year terms and receive a salary of $ 186,668 per year. Judges must retire at age 75.
The two candidates named on the Democratic ticket would have a better chance numerically of winning the seat in the November general election, as that party now has a plurality of voter registration numbers in the county. If a candidate is selected on both tickets on May 18, their election will be virtually guaranteed in November.
When asked by email about what makes a good common plea judge, each candidate gave different answers based on their own experience.
Barraza, 45, of Kennett, a University of Wisconsin law school graduate, stressed the responsibility of judges in decision-making in courts. “As a senior deputy district attorney, I participate at a day-to-day decision-making level,” he said in an email, “exercising my discretion and having to depend on good judgment to make decisions that affect people’s lives.
“This decision-making experience … is suitable for the decision-making that needs to be done as a judge.”
Mincarelli, 48, of East Brandywine, graduated from Temple University School of Law and is a partner at the Philadelphia law firm McCullough, McLaughlin, Mincarelli & McCloskey. He stressed that his work with victims of crime and their families as a Philadelphia prosecutor was also important in his qualifications as a judge. “I have learned to be a compassionate lawyer and defend my clients and I believe that a good judge should know the difference between a bad person and a good person who made a bad choice.”
Redmond, 62, of West Goshen, graduated from Villanova Law School and worked for the Duffy, Green & Redmond law firm in West Chester before joining the Chester County Public Defender’s Office in 2008. “The better kind of judge requires something more ”Than knowing the law, he said. “This characteristic is a deft human touch, a kind of shrewd humility. And a lot of patience.
“The best judges realize this and combine it with the recognition that every person is valuable … and (is) treated with respect and dignity.”
Rovito, 58, of West Goshen, graduated from Dickinson College Law School and operates a private practice in West Chester specializing in family law. “Judicial demeanor and temperament are the most important qualities” (which make a good judge), she said via email. Professional experience and knowledge of the law are “constitutive elements of the judicial temperament.
“The law… can be learned; temperament is a character trait developed over years of experience, ”she wrote.
Verwey, 60, of Caln, graduated from Widener School of Law and is a partner at the West Chester firm of Gawthrop Greenwood. He said work experience was key to seeing “both sides of a given argument and the merits of each.
“This experience, especially when combined with the knowledge gained from practicing in different areas of law, is invaluable in achieving the most correct outcome in a given case,” he wrote. “I also believe that life experience plays an important role in the development of judicial temperament and outlook.”
To contact writer Michael P. Rellahan, call 610-696-1544.