Judge Cozza aims to stay on family court

| Thursday, May 9, 2013, 10:54 p.m.

Common Pleas Judge Paul E. Cozza wants to stay in family court.

“I love working with the kids,” said Cozza, 52, of Baldwin Township, who was appointed to Allegheny County Common Pleas Court last year to fill a vacancy and is running for a full term. “To possibly make a difference in kids' lives, that's the reward for it all.”

Cozza drove delivery trucks for the Post-Gazette, where his father once led the Teamsters, while going to law school at night. A newspaper strike pushed him to open his own legal practice, where he focused on criminal defense and civil litigation.

“Practicing for 19 years, you think you heard everything,” he told the Tribune-Review. “I learned in family court there's things I haven't heard.”

He's on the bench because Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, nominated Cozza, a Democrat, to help push through the nomination of his former chief of staff, Republican Bill Ward. Cozza said he met Corbett at The Grant Street Tavern, Downtown.

“He's friends with Judge (Jeffrey) Manning. I was called, and they said, ‘Why don't you come over here?' ” Cozza said. “Judge Manning introduced me.”

Despite the politics — Cozza worked part-time for Democratic state Sen. Wayne Fontana for six years — he said he's campaigning on his legal experience and touts three years he spent on the county Board of Viewers.

“That's a quasi-judicial position, so I already had that experience before sitting on the bench,” he said.

On the issues:

What's the top issue facing the court? “There's not always a great solution in cases. Sometimes you have to pick the best solution.”

How do you keep political donations by lawyers from affecting decisions from the bench? “I don't care how much money someone contributes to my campaign. That's not going to give them any preferential treatment.”

Should judges hire family members? “I don't think that because someone is a family member they should be disqualified. But if they're not qualified and you hire them just based on relationships, that is absolutely wrong.”

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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