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State bar to honor Butler County judge

| Sunday, May 11, 2014, 12:16 a.m.

Butler County's first female judge is being recognized by the Pennsylvania Bar Association for her community service and professional impact on women in the law.

Judge Marilyn Horan will receive the Anne X. Alpern Award at the Association's Commission on Women in the Profession conference on Wednesday.

“I was really humbled, it's a huge honor,” said Horan, who learned about a month ago that the Butler County Bar Association had nominated her for the award. “I think the rewards that come from hard work and dedication are very nice, but it's the day-to-day satisfaction that's the most significant.”

Horan, 59, of Butler was appointed to the bench in 1996, when two of the county's judges retired. She sought the position when her female colleagues encouraged her to do so.

“It was never in my career path goal,” she said. “When that opportunity opened, I think professionally I had established my credibility as a lawyer, and that facilitated the appointment process.”

It also helped to make her transition into an all-male world a smooth one, she said.

Before becoming a judge, Horan worked for 17 years as a general practice attorney at Murrin, Taylor, Flach and Horan in Butler.

“She was a partner of mine for several years, and she was a very special lady, a hard worker,” said Horan's former colleague and good friend James Taylor, an attorney at the firm now called Murrin, Taylor, Flach, Gallagher and May.

He noted that Horan has received several awards over the years recognizing her for leadership.

“The nice thing about it is that it's consistent,” Taylor said. “It shows a consistent track record of public service and involvement.”

Though the competition was stiff, Horan stood out among the nominees for the Alpern Award because she's been “a trailblazer for women lawyers and general lawyers,” said state Superior Court President Judge Susan Gantman, who co-chairs the award committee with attorneys Kathleen Wilkinson and Anne John. “She is really an outstanding jurist and an outstanding person.”

The Alpern is “a coveted award” among bar association members, Gantman said.

“It's very competitive and with the quality of the applicants, it's very difficult to make a choice,” Gantman said of the dozen or so nominees. “Every single one could have been selected. They are very substantial, talented women.”

Among the ways Horan has contributed to the community is by spearheading an effort about five years ago to form a specialty court to address the need for a credit conciliation program to help Butler County residents who are facing financial legal issues.

“It became an initiative that arose out of a need that I saw from the bench, where communications between lenders and defendants were very poor,” Horan said. “Defendants had no idea of the legal process or their rights or a realistic mechanism to communicate with the plaintiff.”

Through the Credit Crunch Collaborative, she brought together stakeholders including lenders, attorneys, members of the bar association and housing lenders to build a system to improve communication.

Horan is also involved in a number of mentoring programs, many of which help women develop leadership skills.

She helped found Women United, an initiative of the United Way of Butler County that works to develop women's leadership skills and provides mentoring for high school students.

“I don't limit my focus to women; I feel a commitment to mentoring young people in all stages,” Horan said. “We're in high schools trying to help students see options and chart courses to be able to meaningfully enter the workforce when they graduate... (It's) not just focused on college, it's also trade development.”

Horan also created the “Introduction to Lawyering Program,” a free, five-day program offered through the Butler County Bar Association. It's designed to help new attorneys transition from students to practicing in the county courts.

“We're in a fast-paced world today, and those of us in the profession need to look back and help bring the younger folks up,” she said.

Horan said she's uncertain where her career will take her next, but she'd be happy to remain a Butler County judge.

“I have loved my career. I have been very blessed and fulfilled in my law practice and judicial career,” Horan said. “What I have enjoyed most is the ability to help others solve problems.”

Horan is a Butler native and graduate of Butler Area High School. She said staying in the area was simply “where my life took me.”

She still lives in Butler with her husband, Joe Caparosa. The couple has four children, Lydia, Joe, Laura and Monica Caparosa. One will graduate from nursing school soon and the youngest is a sophomore at Penn State University.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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