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Cooper says years in court give perspective for Common Pleas judge seat

| Friday, May 10, 2013, 10:42 p.m.
Marcia Cooper of O'Hara, a staff attorney for KidsVoice, is running for Allegheny County Common Pleas judge.

Marcia L. Cooper was surrounded by lawyers growing up in the South Hills, including her grandfather, father and brother.

“I grew up in a family in which it is considered an honor to practice the law,” said Cooper, 51, of O'Hara, one of 13 candidates for Common Pleas judge.

For Cooper, that practice mostly involved civil cases for 23 years as she handled commercial litigation, personal injury lawsuits, toxic torts and receivership. Last year, she started representing children in dependency cases through the nonprofit KidsVoice, work she told the Tribune-Review she “had always tucked away as something I wanted to do.”

Cooper said the years in civil court taught her about trial work, a key to being a trial judge. As a child advocate, she still spends two or three days a week in court.

“I've appeared in front of a lot of judges, and that gives me perspective,” she said. “You have to be patient, tolerant and smart.

“If a client believes you got a fair shake and the judge heard all sides, no matter what the decision is, they will think it's fair,” Cooper said.

If she wins election and serves in family court, where most new judges start, she has only one change planned.

“We start at 8:30 in the morning and sometimes go to 7:30 at night without a lunch break,” she said. “I'd build a lunch break in for sure.”

On the issues:

What's the top issue facing the court? “In civil cases you end up spending a lot of time bringing a judge up to speed” because different judges handle different aspects. Having one judge handle each case “would make Civil Division more efficient.”

How do you keep political donations by lawyers from affecting decisions from the bench? “I'm self-financed. I haven't accepted donations from anyone.”

Should judges hire family members? “I am against it. I don't think a judge should be a conduit for familial employment.”

David Conti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5802 or dconti@tribweb.com.

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