Allegheny County Bar claims lawyer Luvara 'unqualified' for Common Pleas judge

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 8:58 p.m.

Joseph Luvara is not concerned that the Allegheny County Bar Association deemed him “unqualified” to be a Common Pleas judge.

Luvara declined to sit for an evaluation before the association's panel this year “at the risk of impairment to an independent judiciary,” so the rating is based on his unsuccessful 2009 campaign for judge.

“If you're a public defender or a district attorney, or if you're a partner in a large firm, you fit in with their cookie-cutter mold,” said Luvara, 57, of Carnegie, managing partner of the small Downtown law firm bearing his name. “I think there's something to be said about being an independent thinker, especially when you want to be a judge.”

In a field of 13 candidates vying for four seats on the bench, Luvara said his background as a small business owner — his family operates Groceria Italiana, a fixture of Bloomfield's Italian community — and his experience in adopting his daughter Olivia, 5, set him apart from the other candidates.

“It takes more than being a lawyer to be a judge,” Luvara said. “Lawyers know the law, but it takes courage, a strong constitution and wisdom to know what's going on and make a decision.”

On the issues:

What's the top issue facing the court? “The court needs to entertain solutions to recidivism.” He would establish a literacy program at the jail in which nonviolent offenders who can read teach those who cannot.

How do you keep political donations by lawyers from affecting decisions from the bench? “Up until now, I've accepted no contributions from lawyers. Most lawyers who would give me money are friends of mine — people who respect me — not people who want to buy me. I'm not for sale.”

Should judges hire family members? “I couldn't honestly say they shouldn't be able to, although I wouldn't. I kind of like to keep my family life separate from my business life. I don't want to compromise either one.”

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

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