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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Judge Koury Inducted as NorCo's 27th President Judge

President Judge Koury sworn in by Judge Stephen Baratta 
A packed house crammed into Courtroom #1
Michael Koury's great-grandfather is a Lebanese immigrant who was naturalized as an American citizen in 1926 in Courtroom #1.His grandfather often visited Courtroom #1 to watch trials in progress, and would regale his grandson with stories about the courtroom exploits of colorful lawyers like Charles Hogan. He is rumored to have once put himself on the stand, only to object to his own testimony. Hearing these tales, young Michael Koury decided to become a lawyer. But he was destined to be a judge Yesterday, before standing room only crowd of well over 500 people in historic Courtroom #1, he was sworn in as the 27th President Judge of Northampton County.

This distinguished audience included the heart and soul of Easton's proud Lebanese community. The entire Northampton County bench was on display. The jury box was filled with visiting judges who included Superior Court President Judge Susan Gatman, along with Superior Court Judge Jack Panella, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert "Robin" Simpson, Federal District Court jurists Ed Smith and Jay Leeson and former Judge Emil Giordano. County Executive Lamont McClure, District Attorney John Morganelli and Chief Public Defender Nuria DiLuzio, along with former County Executive Gerald E. "Jerry" Seyfried and County Council members Ron Heckman and Lori Vargo Heffner.

The Koury family
As prestigious as this group might be, the seats of honor were saved for Judge Koury's family. His wife Elaine was flanked on one side by their son Michael and on the other by daughters Josie and Rebecca. Seated at the same table was Judge Koury's mother Josie, who just turned 39 like me, and his sister. Michael's Uncle Anthony, who is also a Deacon at Our Lady of Lebanon, served as Court Crier.

The one family member missing was Michael's father, who was certainly watching from above. Michael's father, also named Michael was a popular magistrate in Wilson Borough. He was known for his common sense, humility and the courtesy with which he treated everyone. Attorney Dan Cohen spoke fondly of his fairness.President Judge Stephen Baratta remembered Koury's dad for another reason - basketball. Baratta was himself an excellent basketball player in his youth, and knew Koury as the well regarded coach at Allentown Central Catholic High School, where he developed an innovative press defense that is still used today.

Judges Sam Murray, Craig Dally and Paula Roscioli watch as
color guard advances to well of the court. 
I myself knew Judge Koury from Josie's Deli. He worked the cash register at  lunch time, freeing Josie up to make her famous sandwiches and soups.

Bishop Alfred A Schlert
Unfortunately, Judge Koury passed away unexpectedly when he was only 60 years old. Michael, then a prominent lawyer on Wall Street, decided to follow in his father's footsteps.  He waged a rare successful write-in campaign to succeed his father. He was first elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 2009. His selection as president judge after just nine years on the bench is an indication of the high regard in which he is held by his fellow jurists.

Outgoing President Judge Stephen Baratta handed Judge Koury a copy of a book that has been handed down from president judge to president judge since the days of Judge Williams - a copy of Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince. This book espouses the principle that the ends justifies the means, and even goes so far as to profess that a prince should keep his word only when it suits his purposes. Judge Baratta said he tried using these principles around his own household, and found himself on the couch for a week.

Att'y Daniel Cohen: "The story of the Koury family
is the story of the American dream."
President Judge Koury said he'd work by consensus among fellow jurists and would follow the teachings of another Mediterranean scholar - Socrates. According to this ancient philosopher, a judge has four duties: (1) To hear courteously; (2) To answer wisely; (3) To consider soberly; and (4) To decide impartially.”

Judge Koury singled out several members of his family who have had a big influence on him growing up. He finished by acknowledging Easton Attorney George Baurkot, a pillar of the Lebanese community, as his mentor.

As has happened at several ceremonies in recent years, and honor guard of Northampton County Corrections officers, including a bagpiper, presented the colors. Melina Heffner, a student at Saucon Valley High School, sang the National Anthem and God Bless America. Most Rev. Alfred A Schlert, Bishop of the Diocese of Allentown, delivered the Invocation and Benediction.

Immediately after the induction ceremony, everyone was invited to Our Lady of Lebanon for a reception and Lebanese food. Fortunately, I had to leave for a meeting in Bethlehem Tp or I would have eaten all the food.


Anonymous said...

We could have sent you a plate or two of food to your Bethlehem Twsp. meeting. Thank you so much for this blog, sir!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I could skip meals for a few months and not miss a beat, but thanks.