BA: English Literature Ursinus College 1999; JD: Temple University School of Law 2003
Former Victim Advocate; Former Prosecutor; Private Practice for over 10 years; husband; father of two (2) children
@Lou Mincarelli for Judge
There is definitely a need for programs to deal with substance addiction and mental health issues. As a prosecutor, my first assignment was to run the Philadelphia Community Court Program which was designed to help combat the growing substance addiction and mental health issues plaguing our society. We experienced much success in getting desperately needed treatment for those who are most vulnerable while still protecting our community. The program enjoyed a great success rate as the recidivism rate was lower among those who entered the program for these non-violent crimes than those who did not. The program was also designed to center around treatment rather than incarceration. If elected Judge of the Chester County Court of Common Pleas, I would use my vast experience as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney to find ways to keep those who find themselves in the court system out of prison if the situation and facts of their case warrant it. Programs such as ARD, Drug Treatment Court, and Veteran’s Court are options to allow all parties to collaborate to find an approach to benefit the accused, the victims and the community.
Plea bargaining is one tool that is at the disposal of the prosecutors to alleviate the need for victims to have to come to court to testify about their traumatic experiences—often continuing the cycle of victimization. As a prosecutor, I often took this into consideration when negotiating with defense attorneys in determining the fair and just outcome to a case. Now, as a defense attorney with over a decade of experience representing people from all walks of life, the option of a plea bargain is something that can potentially benefit my clients as it alleviates the uncertainty of taking a case to trial. All situations are different and the path chosen must be made by the accused in a knowing, informed and voluntary manner. If I am fortunate to have the people of Chester County elect me judge, I would use this experience while presiding over my cases. Bail is never supposed to be punitive. It is designed to assure the accused appears for court and to protect the community. All cases should be individually reviewed taking into account the seriousness of the accusations; the record or lack of criminal record of the accused; and their ties to the community. I have years of experience, on both sides of the courtroom, that I would utilize to make fair and just decisions on matters such as bail and sentencing.
Juris Doctor at Villanova Law School; BA English, Villanova Univ; Salesianum
I am only one of the four judicial candidates who has spent an entire working life in the very West Chester Courtrooms where I hope to serve. I have represented people in Court and other dispute arenas in litigation for 20-plus years in private practice doing exactly the whole spectrum of cases the Court does (Criminal cases, civil suits, Family law disputes, business cases, and estates.) Nobody else has. West Chester is my hometown. I am tuned in to Chester County uniquely among the candidates. That’s a benefit to the citizens of the County, who get not only a seasoned lawyer, but a locally focused hometown one as Judge.
I left private practice for the Public Defender’s Office, and have represented indigent Chester County criminal defendants for 12 years now. It has been a blessing to bring grey-haired life experience to help everybody get a fair shot in Court. The experience helps me see people who are simply detoured by addiction, or trauma in their lives, and see too those driven by a more serious trouble for whom harsher measures might be required. Everybody in any case, (on any side) deserves a fair chance to be heard in Court. I listen.
The most important behavior for this job is judicial temperament. I am known as patient and empathetic, firmly competent and respectful of differing and opposing points of view. I have so acted all my life. Ask any police officer or prosecutor or lawyer in town, including anybody in the race. They’ll tell you I have the temperament for this job- one where there is no place for anger or bullying. People who come to Court deserve a neutral, patient, fair, experienced and savvy person as the Judge. I am that person.
Please ask around about me, and vote for me November 2 as Judge of the Court of Common Pleas.
Judicial Candidates may not publicly assert positions on topics which could come before the Court, and to answer the specific question of my “support” or preference of programs aimed toward the goal of “keeping people out of the prison system” would violate the rule. You wouldn’t want a Judge who has announced deciding a court case a certain predictable way in advance. That’s not fair- to somebody in that case. But over more than thirty years of actual daily experience in the criminal courtrooms in West Chester has taught me that there are ways to encourage a person to change their own unwanted or unhealthy behavior. When destructive behaviors are changed, everybody in the community benefits.
This approach isn’t a judicial plan. Just common sense. Most crimes today are driven by addiction, (alcohol abuse or drug use), mental health issues (including PTSD) or both. Addiction causes people to be unproductive, to avoid responsibility, and to commit crime. All those behaviors drag down the community. With support, some people realize that they could be living a better life if they didn’t take drugs, and can be encouraged to change that behavior.
Chester County has a number of “problem solving Courts” which focus on unhealthy behaviors that result in non-violent crimes. They are aimed at reminding a person with a first offense or minor criminal case that life can be better for everybody. They encourage change by offering a result in return for openness to change and avoidance of destructive behavior.
We have had ‘Drug Court’ for 20 years in Chester County. I have worked in it from the beginning. It’s a 2 year time of close oversight (including testing) where the Court’s Probation Office does long-term encouragement of stability, honesty and productivity. Completion requires a job, stable housing, no drinking or drug use, and meaningful therapeutic participation. There are other such special court arrangements. Everybody knows about ARD, where a first time non-violent person can earn a dismissal over a period of suervision and treatment and community service. There’s Mental Health court too; this recognizes that if we treat the defendant as a patient with an illness and encourage treatment compliance in connection with a criminal case, it improves the patients’ lives, their families’ lives and the wider community too. Sometimes it’s an educational component, sometimes it’s a treatment component, sometimes it’s a reduction in the punishment—but the accused only gets a benefit if they show they are working toward avoiding the behavior which get them in trouble. An example is first time retail theft. Sometimes simply learning of the huge money loss theft causes, or that it causes higher prices change the thinking of a person accused of stealing. That’s helpful to us all, because if we can raise the chance that the current arrest will be the LAST arrest, everybody benefits. Perhaps our least utilized alternative is Veterans’ Court, where those who suffered in service to our country are encouraged to turn their lives from the despair and shame which accompanies an arrest to become again the people of Honor they were when they wore the uniform.
These specialty Courts don’t work for all cases. Or everybody, but they do create opportunities that benefit the individual and the community. Some people have shown by violence or a lengthy criminal history that sterner procedures are necessary. A resolution aimed more at punishment and removing the person from the community they victimized needs to be considered once a person proves themselves violent or unwilling to change. The community must have some relief from the chaos the bad behavior by those unwilling people causes us all, if a more compassionate approach does not work.
Judges can use experience and judgment to conduct themselves in every sector of their lives to encourage respect for the people in Court, the institution of the Court ‘system’, and model behaviors displaying a concern for equity and fairness across the community. Specifics follow.
Bail: A Judge should use the rules and procedures already in place and apply them to each case individually. Successfully applied, the result will be similarity across comparable cases independent of the area of the county where the accused might live, or age, or other characteristic.
Pennsylvania has specific Criminal Rules telling a Judge how to set bail. An internet search for ‘Pa Criminal Rule 523’ and the rules around them will list the rules. Judges, and not any other agency or Office, should determine what bail is appropriate for a person accused of a crime. Sometimes, this will require posting of money. Most times, it will not. The purpose of bail is only to arrange a set of conditions which will ensure the defendant will appear at subsequent Court proceedings, and ‘shall not be greater than is necessary to reasonably ensure the defendant’s appearance.’ Bail is not to be a punishment. The Rules are specifically set out to suggest that everybody is entitled to bail unless after a conviction for murder punishable by life imprisonment or death. The highest goal of justice is served by a Judge who knows and follows the rules. Everyone in America has a presumption of innocence, and that must be acknowledged when setting bail.
Plea Bargaining: Pennsylvania has specific Criminal Rules applicable to plea agreements. Pa Criminal Rule 590. Fairness and impartiality dictate that the Judge not participate in ( or have knowledge of ) discussions between lawyers for the Commonwealth and the defendant relating to terms of a plea agreement. Fairness and impartiality are maximized by a Judge obeying those rules. The obligations to the community, to all persons in Court, and to the job of a Judge requires obedience. Judges can’t act outside that lane.
Sentencing: Sentencing is Pennsylvania is informed by specific Guidelines issued by the Pa Commission on Sentencing, and the responsibility of sound discretion of the Judge. It is also informed by presentations by the parties at the time of sentencing, and sometimes the defendant. A Judge does the best job by following the Sentencing Code, knowing and applying the applicable law, and considering all admissible information from the parties and victims.
The Pennsylvania Sentencing Code is presently around 300 pages, and it is rounded out by legal opinions authored by Appeals Courts in the Commonwealth which are the controlling law. The best Judge will learn, consider and follow all of it to maximize stability and consistency over time and impartiality over the wide spectrum of behaviors and people being sentenced. Here, I have an edge which benefits the whole community.
I am particularly (and probably most) conversant with the Sentencing Code and applicable law from 35 years of experience in criminal cases. The community ought to have the most experienced lawyer with the widest breadth of hands-on participation in this subject, and I invite voters to ask anybody around to learn all they wish to know about my experience. After that active investigation and asking around, I think they’ll decide that I’m the most temperamentally suited, knowledgeable, and experienced lawyer in this race. Please vote for me as one of the two Judges you elect November 2.
1987 - DICKINSON SCHOOL OF LAW, J.D., Carlisle, PA;
1984 - PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY,
B.A. Philosophy, Schreyer Honors College,
with distinction, State College, PA
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Chester County offers a variety of alternative treatment programs such as Drug Court, Mental Health Court and Veterans Court. The programs offer intermediate punishment/home confinement alternatives that allow the individual to be at home and working while restricting their ability to otherwise leave the home; the programs also have strict treatment/counseling and reporting requirements. These programs are designed to look at the root cause of the criminal behavior and offer the defendants an opportunity to learn about themselves and make positive changes in their lives. I believe a judge has an obligation to look at the whole person and see what each individual may need in order for he/she to remain in the community. It is my personal opinion that alternative sentencing allows all the facts of a person’s life to be considered when crafting a sentence that is appropriate for the crime, the victim, the defendant and community.
Treating each person, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic situation, as an individual and equally is the duty of every judge. It is that equity in the courtroom that promotes “justice for all”. The purpose of bail is to guarantee a defendant’s appearance in court and to keep the community safe but not as a punishment. Except for the most serious offenses and offenders, I believe that bail should be cashless or nominal. Plea bargains are agreements between the prosecutor (with the agreement and consent of the victim) and the defendant. The role of plea bargaining is to aid in the administration of justice by reducing the number of trials that need to be conducted while still addressing the wrong that may have occurred. A plea bargain also provides the defendant an opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser offense, which may increase their opportunities for employment, education, and advancement. The judge has a duty to review the terms of the agreement and has the ability to accept or reject the agreement ensuring that not only the needs of the defendant but of the victim and the community at large, are met with an eye towards restoring justice to all. Sentencing is where a judge can make the most difference and where the balance between the various forms of “justice” (for the victim, for the community and for the defendant) is addressed. Uniformity in sentencing is mandated by the legislature through the use of the Sentencing Guidelines. However, if the crime does not carry a mandatory minimum sentence (which ties a judge’s hands completely), there is room within the guidelines to acknowledge and recognize the specific circumstances of the crime, the defendant and the victim and make appropriate and considered deviations. Judges need to be mindful of when and how they may deviate, by either increased or decreased punishments, so that equity is provided to all who appear in court.
Juris Doctor, 1989
Widener University School of Law
Bachelor of Science, Administration of Justice, 1986
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA
I have been practicing law for over 31 years in diverse areas of law ranging from civil litigation, to attorney discipline, eminent domain, real estate taxation and government. I have also successfully argued cases before all three of Pennsylvania’s appellate courts, including a number of cases before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
I am honored to be a Chester County lawyer and one of the three candidates to be independently rated as “qualified” for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas by the Chester County Bar Association. I have also been named a Thomson Reuters “Super Lawyer,” Main Line Today “Top Lawyer,” Philadelphia Business Journal “Best of the Bar” and chosen as a Daily Local News Reader’s Choice “Best Lawyer.”
I will bring a wealth of life experience to the bench as well. I was raised in poverty by my mother, a waitress, and my grandmother, a housekeeper. I understand struggle, hard work, and commitment. After high school, I enlisted in the military and after serving my country, I worked my way through college and law school. These experiences provide me with the temperament necessary to serve as a judge and an understanding of the importance of treating others with dignity and respect.
I also have a record of community and public service. I started by serving my country and then continued serving my community in student government in college and law school. During law school I also worked in the Delaware Civil Clinic providing legal representation to those who could not otherwise afford it. As a practicing attorney, I served with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel for 10 years investigating and prosecuting attorneys for misconduct. I spent 12 years raising money for Legal Aid and have served on board’s working to improve our community.
I now seek to put my experience and commitment to service to work for the citizens of Chester County as a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas.
Veteran’s Court, Drug Court and Mental Health Court all provide valuable alternatives to incarceration. Each recognizes that addiction and mental health issues are not personal failings or choices, but illness that may be treated. These courts provide a path for treatment, while allowing an individual to remain a part of their community.
On the bench, I will ensure that all decisions on these issues are fair, well thought out and in accordance with the law. Off the bench, I would support rule changes that would address these issues.