Only 2 district judge seats up for grabs in Westmoreland
By Paul Peirce
Published: Friday, May 6, 2011,
Although 10 district judge seats in Westmoreland County are up for grabs this year, only two are being contested.
District 10-30-10 in Scottdale includes East Huntingdon and most of South Huntingdon townships and Scottdale.
District 10-3-05 in Washington Township serves Avonmore and Bell, Loyalhanna, Salem and Washington townships.
A district judge earns $82,303 annually.
A race for a vacant seat in Scottdale pits three well-known law enforcement officers: acting Westmoreland County Sheriff Chuck Moore, longtime Scottdale policeman Dennis Elcock and veteran constable Jeffrey P. Rhodes.
All three have cross-filed in seeking a vacancy created last spring with the retirement of J. Bruce King. King held the seat for 28 years.
Moore became acting sheriff in 2009 when former sheriff Chris Scherer was elected Common Pleas Court judge. Moore had been Scherer's chief deputy.
Moore believes his familiarity with civil and criminal court procedures qualifies him as the best candidate for the position.
"I've administered a $4.5 million budget in this position and overseen a lot of personnel. There is not really anything that is likely going to happen in that district justice office that I have not already seen during my career," he said.
"I know that community, lived there all my life and raised my children there. I have roots there," Moore said.
Elcock said he is more familiar with how the office operates than the other two candidates because he has 18 years on the police force.
"I'm the only person who has prosecuted criminal cases in that office. I've prosecuted thousands of cases there during my career," Elcock said.
He said during his law enforcement career, he also has dealt with many incidents, involving civil matters.
"I'm not a politician, and I already know how the office operates. I would be a fair and objective judge," he said.
Rhodes points to his "hands-on" experience in that office during 19 years as a four-term, elected constable, serving warrants as well as civil, landlord-tenant and eviction notices.
"I've been in criminal justice since the late '80s since I got out of college. This is just the next step," Rhodes said.
"I like dealing with people. I've been dealing with the same people over 20 years and have devoted a lot of years in criminal justice," he said.
Moore has served as staff representative of the Law and Justice Committee of the Pennsylvania Senate, the county's chief deputy clerk of courts and its domestic relations enforcement and conference officer.
Rhodes is a 12-year employee of Duraloy Technologies, and a member of the United Steelworkers. He has been state-certified as a constable since 1996 and worked seven years in retail loss prevention.
The other contested district judge race is at the northern end of the county for the seat in Washington Township formerly held by late District Judge Larry Franzi. When Franzi died in 2009, Elise Glenn was appointed to fill the vacancy.
Glenn, an attorney, is now seeking a full, six-year term and is challenged by attorney Charles "Chip" Fox IV, Westmoreland County Sheriff's Department Lt. Jason Buczak and Salem Township resident James Henderson, a constable and businessman.
In addition to her legal training and experience and 10 months of on-the-job experience after her appointment last summer, Glenn cites her life experience raising five children as helping her in the position.
"We hear a number of civil cases in disputes up to $12,000 that sometimes pit neighbor against neighbor, and you have to have mediation skills. My background, legal training and life experience enable me to bring a calm, common-sense approach to helping resolve these type of issues," Glenn said.
While in office, Glenn noted she has seen the terrible impact of drug use and believes that in addition to litigating criminal cases, she also can assist in implementing recovery and educational programs.
She has been a clerk for federal judges at the U.S. Department of Labor and practiced law with Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney in Pittsburgh, among other positions.
Buczak believes his law enforcement experience with the sheriff's office and dealing with courts qualifies him for the post.
"I've spent a lot of time in magistrates' offices and in the courts, and that experience will be quite beneficial. I feel I'm a fair and honest person," Buczak said.
Fox believes his legal experience and background uniquely qualify him for the position.
"I already have experience in the courts fighting for my clients and seeing their rights are served. I've always had a desire to improve and serve the community," he said.
Fox worked in the public defender's office in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Henderson believes his work for almost two decades as a constable and in private business make him best-suited for the job.
"If elected, I will serve only one term and will receive no state retirement and lifetime medical benefits," Henderson said.
"I will strive to be the fair and impartial judge the district was accustomed to for 28 years," he added.
Education: Bachelor's degree in administration of justice, Penn State; graduate of Municipal Police Academy, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Family: Wife, Sherry, three sons
Education: Southmoreland High School; bachelor's degree in political science, University of Pittsburgh
Family: Wife, Traci, two daughters
Jeffrey P. Rhodes
Education: Associate degree in criminal justice, Westmoreland County Community College
Residence: Bell Township
Education: Administration of justice degree, University of Pittsburgh
Family: Wife, Linda, two children
Charles "Chip" Fox IV
Education: Kiski High School; graduate of Thomas M. Cooley School of Law, Lansing, Mich.; business administration degree, Gannon University.
Residence: Salem Township
Education: High school
Family: Wife, Lisa, six children
Residence: Washington Township
Education: Graduate of Case Western Reserve School of Law in Cleveland, University of Rochester
Family: Husband, Democrat state Rep. Joseph Petrarca, five children
Incumbent district judges who are running unopposed are:
-- Charles Conway of Export
-- Joseph DeMarchis of Jeannette
-- Joseph Dalfonso of Monessen
-- Cheryl Peck-Yakopec of Lower Burrell
-- Frank Pallone Jr. of New Kensington
-- James Falcon of Youngwood
-- Charles Christner of West Newton
-- Denise Snyder Thiel of Ligonier.
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