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As judge, Tranquilli wants to intervene early

| Friday, May 10, 2013, 10:44 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Deputy District Attorney Mark Tranquilli is on a leave of absence from his job to run for a seat on Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review

Mark Tranquilli remembers prosecuting a man in 1994, and then trying a case against his son 10 years later.

Just before Tranquilli took leave this spring from the Allegheny County District Attorney's office to run for Common Pleas judge, a case involving the man's grandson came through the office.

“As a prosecutor, I'm at the end of the line in the criminal justice system,” said Tranquilli, 46, of Upper St. Clair, one of 13 candidates running for four spots on the bench. “What if I can get my hands on these kids before it's the end of the line?”

That quest is driving Tranquilli to seek a job as a judge instead of following his original goal, to be district attorney. He said that office requires political connections he does not have.

“A trial judge is on the front lines,” he said.

Tranquilli says his 20 years of trying cases makes him most qualified for the job. Although he spent them all in criminal court, he said he's prepared for and looking forward to family court, where most new judges start.

A Baldwin native, Tranquilli was raised by a single mother and grandmother. He said that experience helps him connect with many of the people caught in the system.

“I see Family Division as an opportunity to help that kid that starts with a strike against him like I did,” he said. “I might be able to nudge him down the right road to success.”

On the issues:

What's the top issue facing the court? “I see a lot of crimes that are being driven by other forces. It's exciting to see more specialty courts to deal with the underlying problems.”

How do you keep political donations by lawyers from affecting decisions from the bench? “They know my reputation for integrity. They know a $250 contribution won't affect the way I do my job.”

Should judges hire family members? “There's no place for that.”

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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