The five Chester County attorneys running for nominations to two open Common Pleas Court judicial positions all have significant experience in the legal world both in the county and the region, backgrounds that establish their bona fides for the trial court position.

Each candidate cites distinguishing factors on their individual resumes that they say set them apart from those they are running against.

For Democrat Carlos Barraza, it is not only his 18-year career as a prosecutor but also his ethnic background — if elected, he would be the first Mexican-American to sit on the county bench.

“I am the only candidate that brings something that has not been on our bench for 17 years, which is representation through diversity,” he told MediaNews Group.

For Republican Lou Mincarelli, it is his history of being both a prosecutor and a defense attorney, service as a victim and child advocate in the courts, and work in civil law. “My diversity and depth of legal experience sets me apart,” he said in an email. “I am and always have been a trial attorney.”

For Republican P.J. Redmond, it is the length and breadth of his work as an attorney and his career as a county pubic defender representing indigent clients after leaving private practice. “It has been a special gift to represent that segment of the population after a few decades of gaining experience with people and with cases,” he said.

For Democrat Alita Rovito, it is her judicial experience while serving as a Family Court Hearing Master, a position she held for 15 years after leaving the county District Attorney’s Office. "Having run a courtroom, I understand how courtroom litigation works in order to be efficient while providing the litigants a fair and respectful process,” she explained.

And for Democrat Anthony Verwey, it is not only his ability to transition from one area of the law to the next that stems from 31 years of practice, but also his personal background. “I believe having been raised in poverty, serving in the military, and then putting myself through law school gives me a unique perspective,” he said. 

The five are also split between those seeking only the Democratic Party’s nomination — Barraza and Verwey — and those who have cross-filed on both the Democratic and Republican ballots — Mincarelli, Redmond and Rovito.

Judicial candidates in Pennsylvania are permitted to seek cross-party nominations. Asked if they supported the cross-filing options, Barraza and Verwey said they favored open primaries or elections for judicial seats, while Mincarelli, Rovito and Redmond touted their support among voters of both political parties as qualified candidates for the bench.

Common Pleas Court judges are those who hear trial cases in all fields of the law, criminal, civil and family. They are not asked to rule on constitutional issues such as free speech or gun ownership, but to apply the law to an individual court case — someone suing a neighbor for trespass or fighting an arrest for rape or robbery.

In Pennsylvania, the trial court judges serve 10-year terms and are paid $186,668 a year in salary. Judges are required to retire at age 75.

Whichever two candidates are nominated on the Democratic ticket would have a numerically better chance of winning the seat in the November General Election, as that party now holds a plurality in voter registration figures in the county. If a candidate is selected on both tickets on May 18, they will be virtually guaranteed election in November. 

Asked via email what makes a good Common Pleas judge, each candidate gave differing answers based on their own experience.

Barraza, 45, of Kennett, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School, pointed to the responsibility judges have for decision-making in the courts. “As a Senior Deputy District Attorney, I engage in a level of decision-making on a daily basis,” he said in an email, “exercising my discretion and having to depend on good judgment to make decisions that affect people’s lives.

“This experience making decisions … is suited for the decision-making that must be done as a judge.” 

Mincarelli, 48, of East Brandywine, is a graduate of the Temple University School of Law and is a partner in the Philadelphia law firm of McCullough, McLaughlin, Mincarelli & McCloskey. He pointed to his work with crime victims and their families as a Philadelphia prosecutor as important in his qualifications as a judge. “I learned to be a compassionate lawyer advocating for my clients and I believe that a good judge needs to know the difference between a bad person, and a good person who made a bad choice.”

Redmond, 62, of West Goshen, is a graduate of Villanova Law School and worked for the law firm of Duffy, Green & Redmond in West Chester before joining the Chester County Public defender’s Office in 2008. “The best kind of judge requires something more” than knowing the law, he said. “That characteristic is a deft human touch, a kind of savvy humility. And loads of patience.

“The best judges realize this and combine it with the recognition that every person has value ... and (is) treated with respect and dignity.”

Rovito, 58, of West Goshen, is a graduate of the Dickinson College School of Law and operates a private practice in West Chester, specializing in family law. “Judicial demeanor and temperament is the most important of the qualities” (that make a good judge,) she said via email. Professional experience and knowledge of the law are “building blocks of judicial temperament.

“The law … can be learned; temperament is a character trait developed over years of experience,” she wrote.

Verwey, 60, of Caln, is a graduate of the Widener School of Law and is a partner in the West Chester firm of Gawthrop Greenwood. He said professional experience was a key to seeing “both sides of a given argument and the merits of each.

“This experience, especially when combined with a knowledge gained from practicing in different areas of the law, is valuable in reaching the most correct outcome in a given matter,” he wrote. “I also believe that life experience plays an important role in developing judicial temperament and perspective.”

To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544. 

To contact Staff Writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.

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