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DA Bianco plans to run for Indiana County judge

Jeff Himler
| Sunday, June 10, 2012, 6:45 p.m.

Indiana County District Attorney Tom Bianco announced Wednesday he intends to run for common pleas judge, seeking the seat on the Indiana County bench vacated by Judge Gregory Olson's retirement last Friday.

The Indiana Democrat acknowledged there's no turning back in his bid for the higher office. Win or lose, Bianco will turn over the role of district attorney to a newly elected officeholder next January, ending his single four-year term in the post.

"That was a factor that I had to consider," he said. "That was a difficult part of my decision because I do enjoy the district attorney's job."

But, "I view this as an opportunity rather than a risk," he said of his campaign for the judgeship. "I really believe that I'm ready for this opportunity."

A lifelong county resident, Bianco, 42, served the county court system earlier in his career as an assistant district attorney, an assistant public defender and the judicial law clerk for current Judge William J. Martin and former Judge W. Parker Ruddock.

"As a prosecutor, in my past three years, I've handled over 4,000 criminal cases," including homicide, sexual assault and drug violations, he said. "I believe that all of those positions have prepared me to take the next step."

"The very well-being of our communities rests in our justice system," Bianco stated. "And it is our judges who stand at the forefront of this institution designed to protect the innocent and deliver just punishments to the guilty. I hold these responsibilities in high regard and would be honored to be able to serve the people of Indiana County as a member of the bench."

Bianco said he's learned much from the county judges he's worked and interacted with over the years.

"I've learned what qualities make a good judge -- to be a good listener, to know when to be firm -- and how to administratively manage all the cases that come through the system," he said.

Bianco cited an increasing number of cases as one of the main challenges facing the county court. If elected to the bench, he said he hoped to work with Martin and Judge Carol Hanna "to take these cases and get them through the system in a fair and efficient way."

"There's no substitution for courtroom experience," Bianco noted. With the cases he's handled as district attorney, he said he believes he has "the background necessary to deliver fair rulings, even when faced with the most complex of cases."

Bianco cited his successful prosecution of Joshua Turner, the Blacklick Township man found guilty last year of first-degree murder in the beating death of a 19-month-old boy, as "probably the biggest case during my time as district attorney."

Jurors ultimately favored a sentence of life in prison without parole for Turner, rather than the death penalty Bianco had sought.

Bianco noted his experience as an attorney also has included defending homicide suspects as well as handling matters involving real estate, municipal law, and civil, estate and family law during years when he maintained a private practice.

He also served as the solicitor for Pine, Green and Armstrong townships, Plumville Borough, the Indiana County Planning Commission and the Indiana County Domestic Relations Office.

The son of Dr. Joseph A. Bianco of Heilwood and his late wife, Rosemary, Tom Bianco was the 1986 valedictorian of Penns Manor High School. He later graduated summa cum laude from Indiana University of Pennsylvania; he received his Juris Doctorate from the Dickinson School of Law in 1993.

Bianco said his wife, Jennifer, was among key people he consulted while making his decision to run for judge. "She and I over the past several months have had many conversations about this decision," he said. The couple has four young children.

Bianco said he was working to set up his campaign committee but has decided on at least two Indiana residents he wants to have involved -- William Todd Raible, who chaired his campaign for district attorney, and Helen Edwards, his mother-in-law.

"She's a great lady, and I'm excited about having her as part of the campaign," Bianco said of Edwards.

Ron Fairman,...Indiana County Democratic Committee chairman, expressed support for Bianco's decision to run for the county bench. In a prepared statement, Fairman said the district attorney " extensive legal background and is exceptionally well qualified to become the next judge of Indiana County....He is well known...throughout the county, having prosecuted many high profile cases....He has the most experience of any candidate and will make an outstanding judge for the citizens of Indiana County."...

Republican Michael Clark announced his candidacy for county judge two weeks earlier. Current solicitor for Indiana County's commissioners and sheriff's office, Clark previously served the county as an assistant district attorney and a correctional officer.

Bianco also is involved with a number of local groups and organizations. He is a member of the Children's Advocacy Center Advisory Board, the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Task Force, the Indiana County Criminal Justice Advisory Board, the Murtha Institute for Homeland Security Advisory Board, the Community Disability Awareness Workgroup, the Indiana County Reality Tour, the Indiana Healthcare Corporation, the Indiana Elks Lodge and the boards of ICW Vocational Services Inc., Hopeful Hearts Inc. and Indiana County CareNet.

Bianco co-chairs Collective Action Against Underage Drinking, is program coordinator for Indiana Youth Basketball Skills and Drills, and is a social member of V.F.W. Post 1989.

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