Eight candidates running for Washington County judge

Bookmark and Share
Make text smaller Make text larger

Photos

Eight candidates seeking the Democratic and Republican nominations for two seats on the Washington County Court of Common Pleas in the May 21 primary have been working hard to get the attention of voters. The seven men and one woman have been explaining to the voters the qualifications they possess that make them the best choice to fill the vacancies created by the sudden retirements last year of judges Paul Pozonsky and Janet Moschetta Bell, with Pozonsky’s depature coming amid reports of a grand jury investigation and destroyed evidence. Their retirements have left the court operating with just four full-time judges.


Judicial candidates are limited by court rules as to the issues they can discuss, but the Observer-Reporter asked each candidate to respond to the question, “What sets you apart from the other candidates running for a seat on the Washington County Court of Common Pleas?”


Following are the candidates’ brief biographies and their responses.


Alan Benyak


Age: 49


Residence: Carroll Township


Education: Bachelor’s degree from Waynesburg University; law degree from Capital University School of Law; U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s School


Occupation: Attorney in private practice


Other qualifications: Discharged as a major from the U.S. Army Reserves Judge Advocate General’s Corps; served as special assistant U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey and Eastern District of North Carolina



“I am the only candidate who has practiced as a military lawyer, federal prosecutor and local attorney, making me best suited for the bench. The law is always changing, and our new judges must be experienced in civil and criminal case law. My private practice focuses on seniors, working families and small business owners, so I have practical knowledge about the legal questions and cases that would come before the court. As a federal prosecutor, I defended our values. As an Army major who served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, I have a keen understanding of the issues faced by our service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom end up in the court system. Our county had the foresight to create a Veterans Court to handle these cases, but none of our judges is a veteran. I bring that perspective to the court.”


Blane Black


Age: 57


Residence: South Strabane Township


Education: Bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Pittsburgh


Occupation: Attorney in private practice


Other qualifications: Serves on Washington County Board of Viewers; former support hearing officer



“My overall experience and temperament sets me apart. I have maintained a private, general law practice for 32 years and have handled personal injury, criminal defense, worker’s compensation, disability, bankruptcy, estates and, most importantly, divorce/custody/child support matters. I am a former support hearing officer and adjudicated thousands of support cases, the only candidate who has such experience. I am solicitor for Washington County Tax Claim/Tax Assessment, and serve as solicitor for Roscoe, Dunlevy, Mid Mon Valley Transit and recorder of deeds. The new judges must handle not only criminal matters, but family-related issues as well.


As president of the Washington County Bar Association, I have earned the trust of my colleagues and the sitting judges and have a solid reputation throughout our county. As the son of a steelworker, husband and proud father of four, I understand issues facing working families.”


Valarie Costanzo


Age: 43


Residence: Cecil Township


Education: Bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Pittsburgh


Occupation: Magisterial district judge


Other qualifications: Former assistant district attorney



“Judicial experience and temperament set me apart. I have been a district judge for 14 years. I have presided over hearings about the most heinous criminal acts, and I have demonstrated a professional, calm demeanor in the face of those responsible. My caseload is voluminous, so my courtroom has to be a model of efficiency and professionalism. The people of Washington County know me. They have seen me grow from my days at Canon-McMillan High School, through my time at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, as an assistant district attorney, and most recently as a district judge. My knowledge of the law, sense of fairness, even temperament and respectful demeanor have been shown to Washington County every day in my courtroom. The other candidates have a wealth of experience between them, but none has presided over both criminal and civil cases as a judge.”


Thomas M. Fallert


Age: 55


Residence: Peters Township


Education: Bachelor’s degree from Washington & Jefferson College; law degree from University of Pittsburgh


Occupation: Attorney in private practice


Other qualifications: Practiced in all three appelate courts in Pennsylvania and U.S. District Court



“I believe I am the most qualified candidate for judge for the following reasons:


First, I am a seasoned trial attorney who has practiced in 19 Western Pennsylvania counties, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, federal court and three other states. I have experience before more than 200 judges and have tried complex cases to verdict in many different counties. I have firsthand experience with many court systems which work well and ones which do not. Second, I believe I have the perfect temperament to serve as a judge. I have a calm, professional demeanor and do not become flustered, rattled or unraveled in the face of stress or adversity. Third, I am a ‘fresh face’ in this race with no strings or ties to any group, special interest or faction in the legal or general community. I believe that these facts, taken in combination, make me the best candidate for judge.”


Charles Kurowski


Age: 60


Residence: Canton Township


Education: Bachelor’s degree from Geneva College; master’s and law degrees from Duquesne University


Occupation: Attorney in private practice


Other qualifications: Extensive pro bono work for Washington County Bar Association



“I am the only candidate that has courage enough to tell the public about what is going on in the courthouse, including the bugging of courtrooms, a judge accused of tampering with trial transcripts and a judge resigning under allegations of a grand jury investigation over drug evidence. I am the only candidate that has practiced for three decades or 33 years in all areas; reversed seven wrong judge’s decisions in a higher court; has over 800 computer-verified cases in the prothonotary’s office; and knows how a victim feels when treated with disrespect, being a past victim of an arsonist and an assault in the courthouse. I am the only candidate not spinning the truth by showing computer-verified credentials and court opinions. The hardworking taxpayer deserves the truth about what is going on in the courthouse. Judges must remember they are employees of the taxpayer.”


Mike Lucas


Age: 45


Residence: Carroll Township


Education: Bachelor’s degree from Washington & Jefferson College; law degree from Duquesne University


Occupation: First assistant district attorney and associate with Bassi, Vreeland and Associates


Other qualifications: Provided pro bono legal counsel to Center in the Woods and several other community groups



“My record sets me apart from the other candidates. I am trusted by those I represent and those who have sat across from me in the courtroom. The Fraternal Order of Police endorsed me. By over a 2 to 1 margin compared to any other candidate, the members of the Washington County Bar Association voted me ‘highly recommended’ to serve as a judge. I am not a partisan politician. District attorneys of both major political parties have entrusted me as first assistant and lead counsel in the most serious criminal cases tried in our county in the last 15 years. My Common Pleas Court experience includes trying cases to verdict, in capital and noncapital cases, in criminal and civil court, to juries and to judges. My pro bono and community service work demonstrate my commitment to a better and safer Washington County. I am ready to serve as your judge.”


Peter V. Marcoline III


Age: 36


Residence: South Strabane Township


Education: Bachelor’s degree from Washington & Jefferson College; Dickinson School of Law


Occupation: Attorney with Blackwell & Associates


Other qualifications: Studied international law and global intellectual property law at University of Florence, Italy



“What really sets me apart from the other candidates is that I view this as an opportunity to work hard for the citizens of Washington County and for the legal system that I love. I am not taking this opportunity as a partial retirement. I am at the peak years of my professional career. I want to devote my energy and mental discipline to running a fair and effective courtroom that will benefit all who appear in it. This can be accomplished based upon my diverse legal experience, caseload and litigation experience. I average over 100 cases per year in the Court of Common Pleas encompassing many areas of the law. My work ethic is unparalleled when compared to the other candidates. I possess the ideal temperament to be a judge. I am patient, compassionate, honest, and possess the utmost integrity. I will conduct myself in the same manner when elected.”


Lane Turturice


Age: 39


Residence: South Strabane Township


Education: Bachelor’s degree from Washington & Jefferson College; law degree from University of Pittsburgh


Occupation: Attorney with Berggren & Turturice


Other qualifications: Former assistant district attorney



“It all comes down to broad practical experience, both as a trial lawyer and as an advocate resolving cases for clients without having to go to court. I have spent my entire career honing my skills in as many different practice areas as possible. I practice regularly in all areas of the law that will come before me as a judge. With the looming countywide reassessment facing our county, my expertise in real estate tax law will be invaluable to me as a judge. In my over five years as an ADA, I learned the ins and outs of criminal law and prosecuted thousands of adult and juvenile cases. I have a real heart for children and families, and I understand the struggles of today’s families and youth. Being the father of four children myself, I am committed to making our communities safer and will work fairly and diligently to hold violent criminals responsible for their actions and will work to get families the services they desperately need to help them remain intact.”


Bookmark and Share Make text smaller Make text larger
comments powered by Disqus

Most Popular
August
2014
Wednesday
27
S M T W T F S
27 28 29 30 31 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
O-R's Poll Question of the Day