Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Stars of Bethlehem Shine on Seamus McCaffrey

Joe Brennan + John Callahan + Don Cunningham + Seamus McCaffrey + Bernie O'Hare + Booze = an Irish wake or Molly Maguires' uprising. But we had neither last night. Not one of us damn Irishmen would touch the booze.

I instead drank coffee at this fundraiser for Judge Seamus McCaffrey, trying hard not to smudge the sheen off a grand piano at Bethlehem's elegant Ambre Studio. Judge McCaffrey, who looks like one of my former drill sergeants, sipped ice water. And so on. Our mothers would have been proud.

I was trying hard not to fart, something I seem to always do when I'm at some fancy gathering. I was also a little worried someone might take my $5o entrance fee to the bank, and learn my check was made of rubber.

As awkward as I felt in this refined setting among all these hotshots, Seamus McCaffrey is the person who instantly put me at ease. He walked right up, introduced himself, and away we went. I could have talked to this personable judge all night.

Accessibility. A rare quality in a judge.

Another accessible and personable fellow, Lehigh County Exec Don Cunningham, introduced McCaffrey to the crowd. "You will never get a chance again, in a lifetime, to vote for someone with his background, experience and common sense."

Cunningham is right. McCaffrey, speaking off the cuff, impresses the hell out of me. He emigrated here from Ireland at age five. As a matter of full disclosure, we learned last night that my family and he both come from the same Irish county - Armagh.

The brahmins of the Bar worry when they see someone like McCaffrey. Instead of getting the "highly recommended" rating reserved for bluebloods, they slap him with a "recommended." If those sycophants are suspicious of him, he must be doing something right.

Unlike most judges, who consider campaigning beneath them, McCaffrey finds it "invigorating." "I love it." He told us, "I was a blue collar kid. I was a cop. I spent 11 1/2 years going to night school to become a lawyer." Instead of some James Carville wannabe, he brought one of his old homicide detectives with him.

In a room full of Democrats, McCaffrey warned, "I have strong Republican and independent views." That's no surprise. When he graduated from Philly's Cardinal Dougherty High School in '68, he enlisted in the marines, and is a Vietnam Veteran. As one of Philly's finest, McCaffrey served for twenty years as patrolman, plainclothes narcotics investigator, homicide detective and supervisor. He spent long evenings getting his B.A and a law degree from Temple.

Elected a Philly municipal judge, McCaffrey ran the "Eagles Court" at the vet, where I sent him one of his first customers, but that's a story for another day. Less widely known, but equally impressive, is McCaffrey's creation of a "Nuisance Night Court" in 1996. He and other Philly judges volunteered their time during evenings to handle neighborhood nuisance crimes. He now sits on the state superior court.

Although McCaffrey views himself a "law and order" type, he still considers the judiciary "the ultimate check and balance. We're there to make sure your rights are protected."

And he stressed the significance of these under-reported judicial races. "A state rep serves for two years and a county commissioner sits for four. But when you elect one of us, you're voting for us for ten years."

McCaffrey believes the dynamics of our appellate courts is limited by the perspectives of judges from the western part of the state. All of the supreme court's justices, excepting Castille, are from the the center or western part of the state, "where people really view themselves as mid-westerners." In the fifteen-judge superior court, where he currently sits, McCaffrey notes that only he and Judges Jack Panella (Lehigh Valley) and Corry Stevens (coal regions) are from the eastern part of the state. "We need more balance."

McCaffrey is exactly what the supreme court needs - an accessible person with common sense. And he believes that Lehigh County Exec Cunningham "represents what we miss in Harrisburg - a fresh face. I'd love to see him as governor."

Seamus, Beir bua agus beannacht!


BethlehemDem said...

Sounds like you had a nice time. Seamus is a nice guy. I met him a few months ago at an event.

Did you get to question any of the local guys who were there?

Sorry I missed the event. I had a prior engagement.

Bernie O'Hare said...


I had an opportunity to talk with Joe Brennan, Don Cunningham, Bill Reynolds, Steve Barron, Levi Price, Ron Heckman and a host of others. Callahan arrived late so I did not get a chance to talk to him. Pawlowski was a no show, and he's the person I really wanted to talk to about those Hamilton Street merchants. Boscola left early so I didn't get a chance to talk to her, either.

Cunningham told me a great Vonnegut story, and I'll have to post that some time soon.

J. Spike said...

His Bumper stickers should say "Vote Seamus or Pouge me hoing"

Sorry My Galic spelling generally is as bad as my english.

Anonymous said...

If a blogger pays 50 bills to attend a news event he will eventually blog about later, has the story been paid for? I know there's no guise of objectivity here, but it's an interesting question. The line between journalism and blogism (spell check indicates I've just coined a word) is easily discernible when the writer/blogger admits to paying for the information. At any rate, thanks for taking one for the team, Bernie. I hear the GOP had a real barn-burner of a confab, but the cost to attend was over your pay grade - and the meeting's content, consequently, was not newsworthy, I guess.

Bernie O'Hare said...

If I had been paid $50 to write the story, then you could say the story was paid for. But in this instance, I actually was the one who had to drop a check to get in the door.

I guess it was worth it. For a half hour, I felt very important, kinda like a blogist. And I ended up really liking Seamus, even though his views are far to the right of my own.

Anonymous said...

They say a picture says a thousand word. The picture says volumes.

PA progressive said...

I've found Seamus to be exactly the same each time I've met him. He even remembers who I am.