This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
Two West Chester residents are vying for the seat in District Court 15-1-04 being vacated by Magisterial District Judge Gwenn Knapp in the General Election on Nov. 3.
Fighting for the spot are Jon Long and Marian Thayer Vito.
Jon Long (D)
Long is a resident of West Chester and is married.
Inspiration to run: “I live my life by the motto, ‘Leave it better than you found it.’ This campaign is an extension of that motto. I have been working for years to address various issues in West Chester. I want to do everything I can to make West Chester an even better place to live, work and raise a family.”
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Why this position: “I chose to run for this position to do my part to help my community and make sure everyone is treated fairly in court.”
Main issue: “Alcohol-based nuisance crimes in the borough is my main issue. We have a great restaurant and bar scene, as well as a large number of university students in town. On the one hand, this makes West Chester a thriving, lively place to live and work. However, it also has a huge impact on the quality of life for many residents. We need to improve university-borough relations, as well as find creative ways to stretch our existing resources to address the problems with drunk bar traffic and loud parties/traffic around the university. As our next District Judge, I will be committed to working with borough leaders and the university to make sure I am coming up with creative sentences that help address this issue.”
Conflicts: “I have no conflict that I know of with my opponent, but just a difference in experience and background.”
Experience: “I am a current Assistant District Attorney and handle everything from traffic offenses to homicide by vehicle cases. I also served on the University Area Neighborhood Task Force, as well as currently serving on the borough’s Comprehensive Plan Task Force. I founded the WCU Law Alumni chapter and served as its first president and I am currently serving on the WCU Alumni Association Board of Directors.”
Why you: “I have a unique combination of skills and experience that will make me the most effective District Judge. I am the only trial attorney in the race with recent, current and on-going experience in the law. I am also the only candidate who has a proven track record, through my work on various borough task forces and with the university, and working on specific issues that affect the quality of life of West Chester’s residents, such as crime, zoning, parking, historic preservation and planning.”
Marian Thayer Vito (R)
She attended Villanova University’s School of Law, where she received a J.D. She is currently an attorney.
Inspiration to run: “Several aspects of the job have inspired me to run. As a prosecutor, I always appreciated the time I spent in the District Courts of Chester County — because it’s in these courts that the judge interacts one-on-one with people, and has a real influence on regular, daily life of the community. I like working with people, and I like being able to solve concrete, real-life problems. These courts also handle an interesting and wide variety of cases. The court is designed to provide access to the average citizen and so it can have a direct impact on our residents. I believe I bring the integrity, respect and practical experience that are essential to making the court work well.”
Main issue: “It’s important for voters to understand that a Magisterial District Judge is required to be a neutral party — not a prosecutor and not a politician. This isn’t just my personal stance — it’s the Commonwealth’s requirement. A Magisterial District Judge also is expected to be an active member of the community and to have a firm grasp on the wide variety of cases and specific responsibilities of the position. To do the best job, a Magisterial District Judge must have the maturity and life experience that allows them to apply the law sensibly. They must be able to effectively administrate the court, and to work well with people to solve problems.”
Conflicts: “I have no specific conflict with my opponent, but it’s important for voters to understand how I differ from him. Although we both have backgrounds in prosecution, my experience has been in West Chester and my opponent’s has been in Doylestown. Both the current and past Chester County District Attorneys have endorsed me, as has the Fraternal Order of Police. These endorsements are especially important in a race between two candidates with prosecution backgrounds. I am deeply rooted in the West Chester community, having lived, worked, volunteered and raised a family here, and I bring maturity and life experience to the position that my opponent simply can’t. I also have bipartisan support, which is crucial in a town judge. I should note that, because Pennsylvania’s primary election law is designed to encourage bipartisanship in judges, I am listed on the ballot as a Republican, even though I’m a registered Democrat. Voters can go to www.marianvito.com to get more details on how this happens.”
Experience: “I served as a Chester County Assistant District Attorney, with a focus on trial work handling special victims cases. I took time off from the law, working in other jobs locally with more flexible hours so that I could raise my children and care for extended family, and then returned to legal practice. I have the life experience that is highly relevant to this position, as well as having taken the Magisterial District Judge course. Throughout this time, I have worked in the community in various volunteer positions – including 10 years on the Board of Directors of the Chester County Crimes Victims’ Center. The Commonwealth realizes the critical importance of life experience and community involvement to the position of ‘town judge.’ I am fully prepared, by legal experience, by life and by education for the specific responsibilities of a Magisterial District Judge.”
Why you: “Having served as a prosecutor, I understand that the job of Magisterial District Judge is very different from that of an attorney. This is why I took the rigorous, state-run course for Magisterial District Judge candidates, even though it’s not required for attorneys. Taking the course is the only way to be fully prepared for the Magisterial District Judge’s wide-ranging responsibilities, which include handling many types of cases, supervising six employees and managing about $1 million in annual revenue.”