What would you like voters to know about you ahead of the Nov. 5 election?
I am well versed in civil, criminal, family, orphans’ court, and military law, however, my passion is serving families, fighting for children’s rights and protecting the elderly and other at-risk populations. For more than a decade, I was in private practice and performed court appointed work in child abuse cases in Cumberland County. I was in court several times a week. I then went to the Federal Courthouse in Harrisburg for four years doing death penalty work. I wasn’t for either side, I worked directly for the Judges. During my legal career, I had been serving part time in the PA Air National Guard as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps officer, I had the opportunity to spend almost a year on active duty, focusing on international law, operational law, and homeland defense. When I returned, I won election as the Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphans’ Court. As the Register, I make judicial determinations daily and have adjudicated over 7,000 cases. As the Clerk of Orphans’ Court, I work with our current Judges on a regular basis.
I am the only candidate with years of judicial experience and working with and for our Judges.
What have you learned about constituent concerns or needs since the primary?
The voters have expressed several areas of concern to me during the campaign. Most people are tired of the bitterly divisive partisan politics. They recognize there is no room for politics in the courtroom. Like other candidates, I cross-filed in the primary. Despite not having received county party endorsements, I garnered approximately the same number of votes from Republicans and Democrats. I won the Democratic ticket by a large margin, and missed winning the Republican ticket by only 1 percent. Overall, I was the top vote-getter. I am respected and have support by members of both parties. The voters want judicial experience, legal background, and judicial temperament in our courthouse, not political favorites.
There is also a huge desire for a Veterans Court, something that is near and dear to my heart. Being a Veteran of the U.S. Air Force and Pennsylvania Air National Guard with 33 years of service, I want to give back to my community. America and Pennsylvania have made the investment in me, it is now time for me to pay back the dividends by serving as our next Judge and to establish a Veterans Court to serve some of our 22,000 veterans in PA.
Are there any misconceptions about the judicial system that you wish to address before people visit the polls?
Criminal law tends to capture the headlines, but it represents less than one-third of all cases in our courts. Civil law also represents less than one-third of all cases.
Family law encompasses the majority of cases in our judicial system. Most Judges have a criminal law background. Family law cases aren’t glamorous, but are the areas that bring more people into contact with the courts. Family law includes marriage, divorce, custody, support, property settlement, and alimony. Not technically family law, but closely related, are abuse cases, including child abuse, spousal abuse, domestic violence, and elder abuse. Unlike our current bench, I bring decades of experience in these areas of law. I also have specialized training in areas of victim advocacy and have been certified a Special Victims Counsel in the USAF. My experience and understanding will complement the bench and better serve those seeking court intervention.
Orphans Court is also a weak area on our bench. Orphans’ Court includes termination of parental rights, adoptions, guardianships, estates, minors’ estates, and accountings.
With our growing and aging population, these areas are coming to the court more frequently. I have the in-depth experience needed to handle all Orphans’ Court matters.
If elected, what are you hoping to help change for the better and why?
In smaller counties, all Judges do all types of cases. However, as counties and their courts grow, this type of arrangement doesn’t work as well. Larger counties, typically third-class counties and larger (Cumberland is a third-class county), divide the courts between Civil, Criminal, Family, and Orphans’ Courts. This makes for more efficient scheduling of the court’s time. This efficiency saves the county money and make for quicker scheduling of matters to come before the court. Just as attorneys specialize in different areas of law to better serve clients, dividing the court allows the Judges to specialize, as well. This makes for a more learned Judge and more consistency among outcomes. Special treatment courts, like our Adult Treatment (Drug and Alcohol) Court, TOMS (Mental Health) Court, and Opioid Court, are not separate courts. They are programs that provide participants the opportunity to pursue treatment while productively addressing their associated legal problems. Any added costs of these intensive programs are regained from having a higher success level and lower recidivism. Plus, the savings in human life is priceless. Adding a Veterans Court will save Cumberland County and our Veterans.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I bring to the bench 23 years as an attorney in private practice and in the courtroom, serving court appointments and providing pro bono services for indigent clients. I have served on many professional boards, including CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocate Advisory Board – since its inception in Cumberland County, the boards of Cumberland County Bar Association, Bar Foundation, Inns of Court, and am an active member of numerous other committees. I am the current Chair, PA Bar Association Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. I serve on the Register of Wills and Clerks of the Orphans’ Court Association’s Executive Board and the Elder Justice in the Courts Advisory Council. I have 33 years of military service, active duty and guard, both enlisted and as a JAG officer. I have served on several military and Veterans’ organizations throughout my career. I am a proud mom of three and have been involved with my children’ activities, and an active member of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
I have honorably served my country, my community, and the law profession. I ask for your support so that I can continue to serve Cumberland County in the fair, independent, and impartial manner we expect from our Judges.