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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, January 23, 2015

Sam Murray: "He Deserves to Be a Judge"

Sam Murray asks security to remove me from his campaign announcement. 
Unlike real reporters, I hate writing under pressure. But I'm under a lot right now. Tammy warned me last night that I better do a good job with this write-up. I usually laugh with scorn when someone says something like that to me. But Tammy is no politico. She's Sam Murray's legal secretary. I have no fear of politicians. But you don't piss off a legal secretary. or there will be hell to pay. So I hope this is acceptable, Tammy.

It was a Who's Who of lawyers, elected officials and family friends, both Republican and Democrat, who descended upon Riverview Country Club last night. A throng of at least 170 heard Easton attorney Sam Murray announce his candidacy for the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas. I was there, too. I crashed it.

I told the receptionist that my name is Jerry Seyfried..

"He's already here, sir,"

"Did I say Seyfried? I meant Stoffa. John Stoffa. I have dyslexia."

She gave me the look most people reserve for craZies, but let me pass.

I was in.

I've known Sam since he first started practicing law in 1983. Like many lawyers, he's smart and is unafraid of work. But what sets him apart, both a lawyer and as a person, is that he always has the time to listen, and I mean really listen, to people. He will hear what you say. This is what will set him apart as a judge, too. Good judges, I have noticed, are excellent listeners.

Audience applauds when Wheeler tases me. 
Sam's a product of Easton. His father was a steelworker and mom a sewing machine operator. A blue collar family. He grew up with troublemakers like Easton City Council member Ken Brown and fellow Attorney Bib Nitschke. He's a graduate of Moravian College and Seton Hall University School of Law. He has spent the past thirty years helping people. Some of his clients have been wealthy. Others have been poor. But I personally have seen him give the same attention to therm all.

The courts saw something they like. In 2003, Sam was appointed a Child Custody Master and Juvenile Court Judicial Hearing Officer. For those of you who are outside the legal arena, Masters and hearing officers stand in the place of a judge, and their recommendations are nearly always accepted.

So Sam already knows what it is like to make a tough call.

"I will always protect and defend the Constitution," Murray stated last night. He added that the most important right in a courtroom is due process.
The reception room was decorated with pretty blondes and Murray yard signs
Though Sam stopped there, let me connect the dots. The Brown administration and Solicitor Vic Scomillio, who is also running for judge, have done a poor job protecting the constitutional right to due process, i.e. notice and an opportunity to be heard.  Vic fired a County employee without affording her due process. And just this week, the Brown administration's failure to prepare criminal trial notices very nearly resulted in the cancellation of criminal court.

Nobody disputes Vic's personal integrity or his legal acumen. But his stint with Brown has killed any hope he has to be a judge, at least for now. His chariot is driving headlong into the Red Sea, but a wall of water is collapsing around his judicial race.

Sam will be resigning his seat as a Juvenile Court Hearing Officer. The Courts require this from any judicial employee. Murray not only agrees with this principle, but adds that any County employee who runs for judge should resign. Let me connect the dots again. Sam is referring to Abe Kassis, an Assistant District Attorney who is also running for judge and who has kept his County job.

Sam has always believed in community service. He has coached girls' basketball, and managed the 2002 Lehigh Little League team that won a state championship and participated in the World Series.

My grandson was in awe when he met Sam and his son Joseph one Sunday.

At the reception, I sat with the bad crowd. Constables Charles Hentz and Lance Wheeler, along with former Chief Probation Officer Mark Mazziotti, kept wary eyes on me. They know I'm slippery. I still managed to eat all of the hummus, mushrooms and bruschetta. When they finally kicked me out, I left for a County Council meeting with a garlic breath so strong that they were forced to go into Executive Session.

There was no shortage of local heavyweights at this shindig, from former NorCo Executive Jerry Seyfried to former State Rep. Rich Grucela. Prominent Republicans like Ray DeRaymond and Bill Murphy were there. Bethlehem and Easton Mayors Bob Donchez and Sal Panto offered statements of support.

But the person who put it best was Mark Mazziotti. "He's the first guy I ever met who actually deserved to be a judge," stated the former Probation Officer. He should know.


Anonymous said...

I like all three candidates personally but Sam has already won. I hope Abe and Vic don't throw too much money down the drain on this one.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Any one of them would be a good judge, I agree. But as Mazz put it, Sam deserves the job. We shall see.

Anonymous said...

Abe got a cheap shot at him he doesn't deserve. Not very judicial.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Well, he is a great lawyer and a great person, and anyone who knows him knows that. So is Vic. All three would be good, but I have known Sam longest, he is a friend, and i believe the people of Northampton County would benefit immensely from him on the bench.

Anonymous said...

Sam definetly has my vote and I will be spreading the word to all to vote for him. He is a great person and was an excellent custody master. He will be a great judge!

Anonymous said...

Sam Murray is a great man who will not only win but will be fair but tough on crime. He has the compassion to listen as you stated Bernie ,but has the maturity to pass down tough sentences. He is the ONLY candidate with Judicial experience and that is a fact that the others in this race can not challenge.

Anonymous said...

Think Sam is a great candidate, and he should win. I am disappointed to hear that he has hired Fleck's firm to run his campaign, which I have heard has already split with the WS Group.

Sam may be the only candidate who uses Fleck that gets my vote, all others won't.

Anonymous said...

Poor Vic... he cannot get the Ooooozzing slime of John Brown off him....He doesn't have a chance.

Get your job back with JB Vic... Being tagged with John Brown is now an anchor around your neck. Kinda like having Angle and O'Hare on your guest list....

Anonymous said...

It is no surprise to hear Murray has the support of both D's and R's for the Judge race. He has maintained a professional relationship with everyone he represented in his office. We are proud to support him and will tell others of his generous contributions he gave to our community. He is a true leader with youth today and has been with his coaching skills.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention Vic lacks necessary judgement to be a judge. Sam is a great choice. But he should absolutely not forget the shortfalls in previous campaigns [Callahan] and work hard through this time. Shake hands and ask for votes. Don't take it for granted. Go Sam!!!

woody said...

I disagree that you should have to resign your job to run for judge. That is ridiculous. We have competent people doing great work. If they lose we lose in the long run.

Anonymous said...

Garvin was there?

Bernie O'Hare said...


Anonymous said...

Who in their right mind would take any kind of endorsement from Mazziota? His reputation proceeds himself. And his reputation is NOT a good one.

Anonymous said...

Knew Mr.Murray years ago and He was a kind Gentleman.Hopefully He will be elected.

Anonymous said...

How does anyone "deserve" to be a judge?

Anonymous said...

A few comments - First, I agree with someone who said don't use Mazziata as a reference. He had major issues and was basically fired from the county. Second, a judicial appointee must resign, which is why Sam will, but there was no reason to cheap shot Abe Kassis since he does not have to resign. Last, today's paper had Sam's PR guy say Sam has to resign as custody master and juvenile court master to run for judge. Sam is not a custody master. He resigned from that years ago when he ran for judge the first time and he did not get that job back. It was given to another attorney, and that person has since been replaced. Sam is a juvenile court master, but after resigning to run for judge the first time, he only got the custody master job back because Sam's replacement, Master Garb, died and there was an opening. I think the PR guy should know the facts and hopefully mis-spoke. If he did not know the facts, shame on him, and if he knew and was trying to mislead, shame on him too. Sam might make a good judge, but lets play fair here. Judges should be ethical at all times, including during their campaigns.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, Mark Mazz was a good guy. He ha a tendency to tell dirty jokes, but is a good person and the courts loved him. He was forced out by Onembo, who felt threatened by Mazz and engineered his dismissal. Unfortunately, Mark would never speak to me about what happened to him, so I can't get his side of the story out there. But the truth about Onembo and his conflicts of interest came out. It is now Onembo who is gone.

Also, I think a judicial candidate would rather have support from a real person than some anonymous commenter who attacks these real persons. Attack Sam, not his supporters, and say who you are if you want to get personal. Mazz can take it.

As for Sam's background, I was at his announcement and happen to know Sam. He did serve as a Custody Master. He did serve as a Juvenile Court Hearing Officer. He did not mislead anyone into thinking that he currently holds the position of custody master. To the extent the newspaper reports he is the current custody master, the newspaper is wrong or you have misunderstood it. That happens when they run out of people to cover these events and meetings and rely on announcements.

Sam did recite his experience at his announcement, and did so accurately. Any of the 170 or so people there could tell you.

Apparently, Sam is the only candidate who actually has judicial experience.

You are also correct that Sam is required to resign his judicial position to run for judge. I pointed that out in my story. There is nothing compelling Abe to resign. Here's my question. Why do the courts require masters or judicial employees to resign to run? Likely the courts feel it presents an appearance of impropriety. Sam's point is that other county employees in similar positions, like Abe Kassis as Assistant DA, should resign to run as well.

While I think that an interesting argument, and I would like to see a discussion of resign to run laws, Abe Kassis' personal integrity is beyond reproach. Sam would say so himself. In fact, he has said so. So I would raise this question of resign to run after the election. That's a question for the legislature.

Anonymous said...

Sam was not required to resign. It is merely recommended under the ethical guidelines. Small difference to some but it is a difference.

Many masters continue their master duties while running for judge. Just as some ADAs resign and some do not.

I'd prefer a judicial candidate that removes not only any impropriety but any perception of impropriety.

Bernie O'Hare said...

There you go. I thought it was a requirement.

Peter J.Cochran said...

Sam; I'm on your side. I have known you as a Constable ,seen you in the courts, and have always admired your understated personality. This is to say, your presents was never that of a big shot. Count me in on your side . I want to be on your campaign, as I think you would make a real contribution.

Peter J.Cochran said...

ABE Kassis is a wonderful man . He is like Sam beyond reproach. Both men are good and smart and educated and honest.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Well said, Peter.

Anonymous said...

Thanx Bernie,

For the most part the comments is were I start my reading of your work and was going to pass on this one because legalize is not a choice of spoken languge?

Thanx for the gut busting about some legal secretary and getting in this glitz glam lightning slum jambroney elite event?

patent pending