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Nine candidates cross-file for seat on Common Pleas bench

There are nine candidates seeking one of three seats available on the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas. Each candidate has cross-filed on the ballot for the May 18 primary election.

The Lehigh Valley Press asked the candidates the following question:

What qualities should a judge have to sit on the bench?

Their responses follow.

Maraleen Shields

Courtroom experience and knowledge of trial rules and procedure. Strong legal acumen and critical thinking skills to apply the law to the facts presented.

A judge must endeavor to be free of preconceptions of the parties before them and have the temperament to treat everyone with a baseline level of decency and respect.

Communication is essential to ensuring equal access to justice. Communication is more than being understood, It is about ability to hear and understand others. Strong communication has to do with meeting people where they are. A judge’s responsibility is to ensure their court is open and equitable.

Patricia Fuentes Mulqueen

Impartiality, respect, experience and compassion are the most important qualities a judge should possess.

It is critical that everyone who comes before a judge knows he or she will be heard without bias or prejudice. A judge should have the ability to set aside her own personal beliefs so that she can view the evidence and hear testimony with nothing to distract her from discerning the truth and determining the best course of action.

An experienced and compassionate judge will take into account the needs of the parties so that their lives are improved as a result.

David Ritter

Integrity is the most important quality for a judge. A judge must uphold the highest ethical standards, and citizens must know that their judges will apply the law provided to them in an honest, forthright manner.

Other important qualities for a judge include having sufficient courtroom trial experience, having a deep love of their local community and having the temperament to treat all people who may come before them with decency and fairness.

Eman H. Jarrah

Knowledge, experience and a judicial temperament are the three key qualities a judge should embody.

Advanced knowledge of legal principles is vital to understanding complex matters that come before a judge.

Professional experience in dealing with parties who are often in conflict is also a necessary skill.

Finally, having the temperament to remain levelheaded, tactful and unbiased no matter how difficult the situation is particularly important.

The ability to decisively, but compassionately, rule on matters affecting those before the court is fundamental to a position of authority.

Zachary Cohen

A good judge needs to be fair, open-minded, tough, compassionate, decisive, practical and patient.

A good judge should be deeply invested in their community and dedicated to making it better and safe for all.

A good judge needs to have broad trial experience and the highest possible recommendations from professional peer groups like the Bar Association Judicial Review Committee.

A good judge will treat everyone with dignity and respect to ensure equal justice under law.

A good judge will uphold our laws and Constitution to protect our community.

Vote for me, Zachary Cohen, and Lehigh County will have that judge.

Tom Capehart

There are two main qualities: experience and impartial adherence to the law.

I will bring to the bench: over three decades experience as an attorney; the highest ethical rating and the Lehigh County Bar’s highest ability rating of “Highly Recommended”; real experience hearing and deciding cases as a court-appointed arbitrator; and vast experience in civil law that makes up 60 percent of the court’s caseload, which will let me make an immediate impact.

Judges must apply the law to the facts of each case regardless of personal or political opinion and render a fair decision.

I pledge to do so.

Tom Caffrey

A judge must possess several different and equally important qualities.

A judge must be able to maintain an open mind and decide cases based on the law and facts and not his or her political or personal views.

A judge must possess the academic ability and experience to handle complex legal matters, while also possessing the common sense and temperament required to deal with the wide variety of issues that arise on a daily basis.

And, a judge must be willing to make tough decisions, without regard to whether they are popular or what people may think about them.

Rashid Santiago

Some important qualities of a judge include: integrity, impartiality, judicial temperament and an overriding commitment to justice.

A judge must be committed to setting aside personal viewpoints in carrying out the law in a fair and impartial manner.

According to the American Bar Association, judicial temperament consists of a candidate’s ability to display “compassion, decisiveness, open-mindedness, sensitivity, courtesy, patience, freedom from bias and commitment to equal justice.”

Being the only candidate who is an elected judge, I believe I have demonstrated these qualities on a daily basis along with an ability to efficiently but thoroughly manage a courtroom.

Carlos Rodriguez

A judge should be humble, patient, compassionate, impartial and accessible and have strong work ethic, good temperament, unquestionable moral character and experience interacting with a great diversity of people.

Finally, and most importantly, a judge should really care about others and have a passion to serve.

Patricia Fuentes Mulqueen
David Ritter
Eman H. Jarrah
Zachary Cohen
Tom Capehart
Tom Caffrey
Rashid Santiago
Carlos Rodriguez