What is a judge of the court of common pleas? - These are Pennsylvania's trial courts, located in 60 judicial districts. They are based on the common law in England, and were designed originally to handle just civil disputes, not involving the crown. Today's courts of common pleas hear both civil and criminal matters. It is basically a court of general jurisdiction. Ir is also a court of record, meaning there is a transcript of all proceedings.
How many judges are there in Northampton County? - Normally, there should be nine judges on the bench, but Judge Edward Smith has resigned to become a federal district court judge. This election is to fill that void. The judges elect a President Judge, who essentially acts as a first among equals and gets stuck doing a great deal of administrative work. The bench's current President Judge, Steve Baratta, has designated Senior Judge Leonard Zito as the Administrative Judge for the Criminal Court.
What are the basic qualifications? - You have to be a member of the state bar, a state resident for at least one year and reside within the judicial district for a year. From the moment you announce, you are bound by a strict code of judicial conduct designed to ensure the independence and integrity of the court. That's why you won't see most judges at election time, unless they are running for election or retention. That's why some judges, like Judge Koury, refused to accept contributions from lawyers. Once a judge is elected, he never has to run again. He or she can simply seek retention every ten years until age 70, the current mandatory retirement age. Because a judge is supposed to be nonpartisan, candidates can cross-file.
How well does it pay? - Very well. A judge of the court of common pleas is paid $176,572. Every year, that salary goes up. This is less than some well-established lawyers earn, but there is no overhead. Judges are usually provided law clerks, secretaries and tipstaffs as well. They also decide who to hire as probation officers.
Who's running? - Now that I've explained the job, let be tell you about the candidates. Each of them would be an excellent judge, but . Here they are, in alphabetical order
|Abe Kassis with children advocate Phil Hof|
Abe has a Facebook page and also uses Twitter.
My sole criticism of his campaign is his reliance on tea party hardliners for signatures on his nomination petition. This includes the use of Tom Carroll as a circulator. This is support that Abe sought himself at a tea party meeting, which made him late to a meeting of Democrats.
|Sam Murray and family|
I've known Sam since he first started practicing law in 1983, where he quickly developed a thriving family practice. His work ethic and intelligence was recognized by the courts, and he has served as both a custody master and juvenile hearing officer. Of the three judicial candidates, he is the only one who actually has any judicial experience.
Involved in youth sports, Sam coached the Lehigh Little League team that won a state championship and went to the World Series in 2002..My grandson was in awe when he met Sam and his son Joseph after mass one Sunday.
Sam has a webpage and is also on Facebook.
He figured wrong.
Brown's first year in office was pretty much a disaster, especially from a legal point of view. Brown proposed a $20 million line of credit to balance the budget, completely ignoring the Home Rule Charter. He insisted on hiring a public relations consultant despite a provision in the Administrative Code that requires bidding for professional services. He also engaged in piecemeal contracts with C3, keeping them under the threshold required for notice to Council.
Instead of counseling Brown to follow the law, Vic seemed more intent on breaking it. Nowhere was that more apparent that in his illegal firing of an assistant County Solicitor, two days before Christmas, from his car. He completely violated this employee's rights to due process. That fired worker was recently awarded $94,000 by a federal jury.
Vic pretty much spent the last year proving why he should not be elected. In fact, there is some doubt whether he will capture the Republican nomination. I think he will, but have an illegal bet with someone that it is going to Kassis.
So far as I know, Vic has no webpage or Facebook page.
On the left side of this blog, you will see a Northampton County Races page linking to the elections. Please feel free to visit that page. You are welcome to add comments, supporting your candidates or opposing others.