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Allegheny County Common Pleas judge races feature both quality, quantity

The candidates

The 14 candidates for four seats on Allegheny County Common Pleas Court are listed below. The Judiciary Committee of the Allegheny County Bar Association, which evaluates judicial candidates before elections, will release its ratings after final interviews, scheduled for April 10.

Barbara Behrend Ernsberger

AGE: 61

RESIDENCE: Shadyside

BACKGROUND: In private practice for more than 30 years, working cases in civil, family and orphans court

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, University of Pittsburgh; law degree, Duquesne University

Eleanor Bush

AGE: 53

RESIDENCE: Squirrel Hill

BACKGROUND: An attorney for Pennsylvania Department of Education and later with the nonprofit Juvenile Law Center and KidsVoice; now provides legal training for Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network

EDUCATION: Bachelor's and law degrees, Yale University

Patrick Connelly

AGE: 45

RESIDENCE: Shadyside

BACKGROUND: With Summers, McDonnell, Hudock, Guthrie & Skeel law firm for more than 18 years in civil litigation; solicitor for the St. Patrick's Day Parade

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, Boston College; law degree, West Virginia University

Marcia L. Cooper

AGE: 50


BACKGROUND: Staff attorney for KidsVoice; previously, a trial lawyer for 24 years

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass.; law degree, University of Pittsburgh

Paul E. Cozza

AGE: 52

RESIDENCE: Baldwin Township

BACKGROUND: Tapped by Gov. Tom Corbett to fill a court vacancy; previously spent three years as a member of the Allegheny County Board of Viewers and two decades in private practice

EDUCATION: Law degree, Duquesne University

Rosemary Crawford

AGE: 49

RESIDENCE: Allison Park

BACKGROUND: Attorney, trustee, arbitrator and mediator at Crawford McDonald in Allison Park and former director of legal resources for the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, Rhodes College in Memphis; law degree, Georgetown University

Marc Daffner

AGE: 44


BACKGROUND: Founder and managing attorney of Daffner & Associates; an arbitrator in civil division of the Court of Common Pleas and U.S. District Court and a court-appointed attorney representing children in complex custody matters in family court

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, University of Rochester; law degree, University of Pittsburgh

Marvin Leibowitz

AGE: 63

RESIDENCE: Squirrel Hill

BACKGROUND: With Social Security Administration for 24 years; in private practice for 13 years; formerly a regional vice president for National Treasury Employees Union; a commissioner with Pittsburgh Equal Opportunity Review Commission

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, Temple University; law degree, Widener University

Joseph V. Luvara

AGE: 57


BACKGROUND: In private practice in criminal law, bankruptcy, estate law and voting rights; with Duquesne University as an assistant dean and supervising attorney for clinical education; co-owner of Groceria Italiana in Bloomfield

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, Marquette University; law degrees, Western State University in Fullerton, Calif., and Duquesne University

P.J. Murray

AGE: 51

RESIDENCE: Upper St. Clair

BACKGROUND: Law practice for 22 years, specializing in civil litigation in employment, construction, banking and general business law; partner with Pittsburgh office of Dinsmore & Shohl

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, University of Pittsburgh; law degree, Duquesne University

Daniel D. Regan

AGE: 37


BACKGROUND: City solicitor under Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl since November 2009; with Caputo & Caputo, a Downtown firm, in civil, criminal and administrative litigation

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, New York University; law degree, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University in New York City

Jennifer Satler

AGE: 37

RESIDENCE: Washington's Landing

BACKGROUND: With Allegheny County Public Defender's Office 2001-07; since 2008 at University of Pittsburgh teaching trial advocacy and directing moot court team

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, Bryn Mawr College; law degree, University of Pittsburgh

Mark V. Tranquilli

AGE: 45

RESIDENCE: Upper St. Clair

BACKGROUND: 20 years with Allegheny County District Attorney's Office; head of homicide unit since 2005

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, Allegheny College; law degree, University of Pittsburgh

William F. Ward

AGE: 61

RESIDENCE: Mt. Lebanon

BACKGROUND: Former chief of staff to Gov. Tom Corbett, who tapped him to fill a court vacancy in May; in family division since July; former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, heading economic crimes section; 10 years in private practice; volunteers as a judge for veterans court and works with juvenile court to identify autistic offenders

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.; law degree, Temple University

Source: Tribune-Review

Monday, April 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Fourteen candidates are vying for four open seats on Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, giving voters a difficult choice from a field of well-qualified candidates, political observers said.

“We are fortunate to have so many qualified people running,” said Nancy Patton Mills, chair of the county Democratic Committee.

“It's going to be interesting, that's for sure,” said Jim Roddey, chair of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County.

The candidates include sitting Common Pleas Judges Paul Cozza, 52, of Baldwin Township and Bill Ward, 61, of Mt. Lebanon, both of whom Gov. Tom Corbett appointed last year; city Solicitor Daniel D. Regan, 37, of the North Side, who became a surprise candidate after his boss, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, dropped his re-election bid; and Deputy District Attorney Mark V. Tranquilli, 45, of Upper St. Clair.

“Everyone in the race is well-qualified and experienced in their own way,” said Patrick Connelly, 45, of Shadyside, one of a dozen attorneys vying for a seat. “It's a large field but a very diverse field.”

On May 21, voters in each political party will select four nominees to run in the November general election. In the primary, candidates for Common Pleas Court can run on Democratic and Republican ballots.

Observers said Cozza and Ward, whom the Senate confirmed last summer, are among the front-runners, since both have experience on the bench.

“Bill Ward is my favorite,” Roddey said of Corbett's former chief of staff. “He's an outstanding lawyer and a person of very high integrity.”

Ward, a former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District in charge of economic crimes, spent 10 years handling civil and criminal cases in private practice. Then-Attorney General Corbett in 1996 named him his first deputy, a position in which he advised Corbett on criminal prosecutions, civil and consumer protection cases. Ward was chair of the state Parole Board for six years and is the only candidate who is a sitting judge and highly rated by the county bar association.

“Coming in, I was eager to take on any proposition, and I really do enjoy the family division because of the opportunity to make a difference on a daily basis,” Ward said. “I've had kids come back to me and thank me, even in the short time I've been on the bench.”

Cozza “is a real working-class kid who worked hard to be a lawyer and get to the bench,” said state Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills.

A federal judge in 1991 barred Cozza's father, Theodore Cozza — the longtime president of Teamsters Local 211, which represented truck drivers for the Pittsburgh Press — from the labor union for ties to organized crime. Theodore Cozza, twice the target of a federal investigation, died in 1996.

Paul Cozza did not return calls for comment.

“He is a humble individual, which is a characteristic that you don't find often in my profession,” said Pittsburgh attorney Robert Del Greco, Cozza's friend.

The other candidates said their experiences before judges will help them perform well as one.

“I believe I can do more good behind the bench than in front of it,” said Marcia L. Cooper, 50, of O'Hara.

“I'm running to serve on the family court and bring my experience, knowledge and commitment to continue to make a difference for kids and families,” said child welfare attorney Eleanor Bush, 53, of Squirrel Hill.

Marvin Liebowitz, 63, of Squirrel Hill said his experience in many facets of the law is his strongest attribute.

“I have trial and appellate experience, experience as an arbitrator and in dispute resolution,” Liebowitz said.

Barbara Behrend Enrsberger, 61, of Shadyside said she wants to use her knowledge of the law to be more service-oriented.

“Judges give more consideration of all factors of the law, which I think I'm qualified to do,” she said.

Allison Park attorney Rosemary Crawford, 49, said she's running because she wants to make a difference.

“I have a unique perspective and always focus on being fair and not judgmental of people on anything but the law and facts,” Crawford said.

Said Marc Daffner, 44, of Greenfield: “It may sound corny, but things like justice and equality aren't just principles to me. They're the reason I get up every day.”

Jennifer Satler, 37, of the North Side said her age would set her apart as a judge. She is the youngest candidate.

“I can bring a fresh and energetic look, and I'm a good investment,” Satler said.

Civil litigator P.J. Murray, 51, of Upper St. Clair said he's the only candidate from a big law firm who worked full-time as a federal law clerk.

“I think you have to look at the endorsements,” Murray said. “They mean an awful lot.”

The Allegheny County Labor Council and the county Democratic Committee endorsed Murray, Tranquilli, Satler and Cozza. Roddey said the Republican Committee does not endorse candidates at the local level but its members support Ward.

Being a good lawyer is not enough to make a good judge, said Downtown attorney and candidate Joseph V. Luvara.

“Lawyers know the law, but to be a judge you have to have the courage, constitution and wisdom to make hard decisions,” said Luvara, 57, of Carnegie.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or



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