|Ten minutes before thee show, meeting room nearly at capacity|
|Woglom goes over debate procedures with candidates|
If the audience is any indication of who will be voting on election day, Sam Murray will win. At least 70 of the people there were wearing Murray buttons and T-shirts.
Having a largely friendly crowd seemed to relax Sam. He was himself throughout the debate, and appeared very much like the kind of guy you'd be sitting next to at a diner or McDonald's. In fact, when asked about his greatest weakness, it was McDonald's. Vic appeared stiff and wooden, very much like the kind of guy you'd see in a board room. He claimed his greatest weakness was that he would spend too much time on cases because he cares so much. That answer seemed a tad artificial.
For the most part, they agreed or had only minor differences to the tepid questions posed by the LWV, which was operating under the misunderstanding that they can only ask judge candidates about their qualifications and experience. So yes, neither will legislate from the bench. Both would impose the sentences required for hate crimes. Defendants are entitled to bail, something that many hardliners forget is specifically mentioned in the Constitution they claim to literally follow. They both think local judges should be elected. They both favor individual calendars to move cases along, which is contrary to current Northampton County practice. They both support problem solving courts.
But there were differences.
|L to R: Sam Murray, LWV Bev Hernandez, Meyner Center Dave Woglom and Vic Scomillio|
The biggest of these is experience. "Experience matters" is the mantra that Sam repeated at least four times during the debate. He has been a practicing attorney for 32 years, has tried every kind of case, and was selected by the Court as both a Custody andJuvenile hearing Master. Vic has only half the experience, yet has circulated campaign literature claiming essentially to be the mist experienced person in the world.
This perplexed Sam so much that he called Vic out on it. Aside from himself, Sam told Vic there are lawyers and judges with 40 years of experience. How could he claim to be the most qualified?
"My experience speaks for itself," was his rather hollow answer.
Scomillio Violates Employee's Due Process Rights
This inexperience is apparent in the way he handled the termination of Jill Mancini, a former Assistant County Solicitor he fired two days before Christmas, before he was even in office himself as County Solicitor. He did it by cell phone from his car, in a conversation that kept fading in and out.
That was a terrible way to treat somebody. He also failed to accord Mancini with something that should be basic in any judge. Due process. He provided no notice or opportunity to be heard.
Mancini, who was in the audience last night, sued and won. Taxpayers are now on the hook for nearly $300,000 in lost wages and attorney fees.
Candidates were asked last night whether those costs will go up, especially since the County has appealed the ruling. Scomillio argued that any costs from that defeat would be more than offset by efficiencies he created in his one year as Solicitor. In incredulous Murray called Vic's explanation "nonsense" and predicted this fundamental deprivation of constitutional rights will cost taxpayers at least $500,000.
Working Poor's Access to the Courts
Scomillio claimed that there are safeguards in place to serve the legal needs of those with limited or no income. He pointed to North Penn Legal Services, which is funded by lawyers. Vic noted he himself has done pro bono (free) work for clients in need.
But Sam said that's not enough. "There are a lot of people who cannot afford the legal services that the people in this room can afford," he said. He noted that the budget at North Penn Legal Services has been reduced and it no longer accepts cases from victims of domestic violence or landlord tenant matters.
Vic portrayed police officers as victims of violence and argued more needs to be done to help them do their jobs. While Sam agreed that the vast majority of police officers are dedicated, profiling does occur outside of Northampton County. "If I were black, i would not want to drive at night," he said.
What's sad about this debate is that not one media outlet, save for this blog, bothered to cover it. I think that, once again, they are failing in their mission to keep the people informed. If you were there, and have observations to share, please add them. I took copious notes, but I'm worse than the newspapers. I left my notebook at the courthouse. This report is based solely on my own faulty memory.
Updated 10:20 am: Notebook Retrieved. - My Notebook has been retrieved. The Council Clerk has just sent me an email, advising me, "We will lock it up until you're able to stop by to pick it up." My response. "You don't have to lock it. It is not the Ten Commandments."