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Westmoreland judge seeks 2nd decade on court

| Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Chris Feliciani
submitted
Meagan Bilik DeFazio, candidate for Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court

Westmoreland County Judge Chris Feliciani said he's kept a promise he made 10 years ago to help children and parents.

Feliciani, 54, of Hempfield is completing his 10-year term as a Common Pleas Court judge and will ask voters next week to keep him on the county bench for another decade.

“I made a promise I would do everything in my power to protect the health, welfare and safety of our children,” Feliciani said. “I did feel that when I was elected, the public entrusted me with the responsibility to change the face of the courts and to make changes.”

During his decade-long term in family court, Feliciani helped form a Court Appointed Special Advocates program that assigned volunteers to assist every child in court custody cases.

That program has flourished since its start in 2006, and now more than 200 volunteers are in place.

Feliciani started a drug court for the family division in which addicted parents work to recover with a goal of being reunited with their children.

Feliciani said he would like to have the drug court expanded to criminal courts, a project that is in its infancy. County officials just started to look for funding.

With at least one opening and possibly more expected next year in the criminal court division, Feliciani is first in line to transfer.

He said he hasn't decided whether to transition to adult court.

“It's a critical crossroads for me, because I'm passionate about family court. One of the biggest obstacles we face is drug and alcohol abuse. I've consistently offered my time to help start a drug court in the criminal division, and regardless if I transfer, I will be part of drug court over there,” Feliciani said.

He has the support of county lawyers for a second term on the bench.

More than 95 percent of the responding attorneys who participated in Westmoreland County Bar Association survey recommended voters retain Feliciani.

County voters will finalize the election of Meagan Bilik DeFazio, who was nominated in the spring by Democrats and Republicans to fill one vacancy on the county bench.

She defeated two other candidates in the May primary and is uncontested.

Bilik DeFazio, 38, of North Huntingdon has been a lawyer since 2000. She worked for five years in the county public defender's office and has a criminal and civil litigation practice.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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