Incumbent judge Seavey challenged by Morley in district judge race
● By Steven Hoffman
Incumbent District Judge Matthew Seavey and challenger Nicole Morley have both cross-filed and are seeking the nomination from Republicans and Democrats in the Primary Election on Tuesday, May 19.
For the last six years, Seavey has been serving as the judge of Magisterial District Court 15-4-04, which includes West Grove and Avondale boroughs, London Grove, Franklin, London Britain, New Garden, and West Marlborough townships. This district court has handled approximately 30,000 cases since Seavey became a district judge in 2009.
“We’re now one of the busiest courts in Chester County,” Seavey explained in an interview in late April. “Since I took over, we’re now the fifth-busiest court in the county.”
Morley, who earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania, has a distinguished record as a lawyer since she earned a law degree from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. She worked as a prosecutor with the state attorney’s office in Cook County, Chicago for eight years, putting murderers, drug dealers, and other violent criminals behind bars.
When she moved back home to Chester County, Morley served as an Assistant District Attorney in Chester County for two years before going on to manage a small law practice for the past nine years. Her work there included helping seniors and families by appealing their tax assessments that are used to calculate the annual tax burden. Her experiences as a professional attorney helped her earn the endorsement of the Republican Party.
“I've always liked that district courts are community-based,” said Morley. “The community means a lot to me. If elected, I will close my private practice and serve as a full-time District Judge.”
Until his election as Magisterial District Judge in 2009, Seavey was a Pennsylvania state constable. He worked closely with the past Magisterial District Judge of Court 15-4-04, as well as the State and local police, Sheriff’s Department, prison, and Court of Common Pleas. He enrolled in district judge training and earned a district judge certification in 2008, preparing himself to serve as a district judge.
“I took that step because I worked closely with the district court as a constable, and have seen and experienced firsthand the increasing challenges faced by our district court system as our local population grows,” Seavey explained. “I understand how critical it is that our Magisterial District Judge be a dedicated, full-time public servant to ensure the effective use of our precious taxpayer dollars.”
Seavey said that one of the things that he is most proud of during his six years as a district judge is his work in the community, especially with young people.
“I implemented my own anti-truancy program that is keeping kids in school,” Seavey explained, adding that other judges have used this program as a model for their own initiatives.
He frequently visits schools and also meets with the families of at-risk youth to make sure they understand that he cares.
When asked to talk about a time when he made a difference in a young person’s life, Seavey mentions a young man who was getting into fights and headed in the wrong direction.
“I just saw something in him,” Seavey explained. “I believed in him.”
After Seavey reached out to the young man, and worked with him, the boy got back on the right path and is now in college.
In another instance, a young woman came in front of Seavey because of truancy issues. She eventually dropped out of high school, but did enroll to earn a G.E.D. She, too, is headed in the right direction again.
Seavey said that he's also proud that the district court runs efficiently under his direction. He noted that he hired bilingual staff and cross-trained them to simultaneously serve the community better and save the taxpayers money.
Seavey’s court has been audited and received good reports from the Auditor General of Pennsylvania, and was commended for complying with the administrative policies and procedures adopted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
When Seavey ran for the position of judge, he vowed to always make himself available for law enforcement so that they wouldn’t have to drive across the county to have a case processed. He said that he has followed through on this.
“I’m there every day and the police know that,” Seavey explained. “I’ve kept that promise and because of that I’m endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police.”
Morley said that she has the ability to be honest, impartial, and fair with every person who walks into the courtroom.
“I believe in the justice system,” she explained. “As a district judge, I would look at the facts of each case and apply the law fairly to everyone who comes into the courtroom. That means that the judge needs to know when someone has made a mistake where the law allows leniency and when someone has committed an act for which the law states they must be held responsible. This must be done based on the facts the judge has before them and not on personal relationships or favors. I think it's important to have someone in this position who respects the law.”
Morley said that her previous experience as an attorney makes her well-suited for the position that she is seeking.
“I have been a lawyer and a prosecutor for 19 years. I spent 10 of those years as a prosecuting attorney, holding criminals responsible for their actions for our children and our families, and to keep our communities safe.”
As a wife and mother of four children in the Avon Grove School District, Morley is very involved with the community. She was a founder and coach of the Avon Grove Wildcats field hockey program and a director and coach of the Wildcats’ girls’ lacrosse program.
“I have devoted years to establishing, improving, and supporting sports programs in the Southern Chester County area,” she said. “I have been the director and a coach of the Avon Grove Wildcats Girls Lacrosse program over the past six years. That program has grown from just two teams to eleven teams. I coached field hockey for three years for the Unionville Recreational Association when our area did not have a field hockey program. Recognizing how many of our Avon Grove girls were traveling to Unionville for field hockey, I founded the Avon Grove Wildcats Field Hockey program, modeling it after our lacrosse program. I was very happy to have 100 girls come out for field hockey in our first year.”
As the director, one of Morley’s responsibilities was to secure fields for the lacrosse and field hockey teams to use. She found that often one youth sports program was competing with another for field use.
“Instead of fighting against each other, I saw a need to work together,” Morley explained. “Last summer, I mobilized and organized many of the local youth sports programs and we proposed to the school district a plan to form a task force so that we could change the existing policies on access and maintenance of fields to foster a sports community and work together to mutually benefit our programs and our families as well as the district.”
The task force and the school district are still working on revising the policies in time for the coming school year.
Morley is also an elected township auditor for Franklin Township, where she audits the financial records of the township. She said that she is proud of the fact that she won the endorsement of the Republican Party, and is hopeful that voters will support her on Election Day.
“I would be honored to bring my leadership, community dedication, my legal training and experience, and my values to the position of Magisterial District Judge,” she said.
Seavey, meanwhile, said that he has kept partisan politics out of the courtroom. He said that his record of being tough on criminals who deserve it, including murderers, rapists, and drug dealers, helped him earn the endorsement of law enforcement—the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 11.
“There’s no better experience for being a judge than being a judge,” Seavey said. “I’ve worked in that court for nearly 14 years. I saw what needed to be done and that’s what I accomplished.”
The 2015 Primary election
When Chester County voters go to the polls on Tuesday, May 19, they will be making numerous decisions about who will earn nominations for the General Election in November. Here’s a look at some of the other races that will be decided:
In local school board races, Oxford School Board president Donna Arrowood, a Democrat, is one of three candidates seeking two of the at-large seats on the board. Becky Fetterolf, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, and Robert Tenga, who has cross-filed, are also running for the nomination for the at-large seats. Incumbent Howard Robinson has cross-filed and is the only candidate on the ballot for his seat in Region I, which includes Upper Oxford Township, Lower Oxford Township East, and Oxford Borough East. In Region II, which includes West Nottingham Township, Lower Oxford Township West, and Oxford Borough West, incumbent Gary Olson has cross-filed and is the only candidate on the ballot. Oxford’s Region III includes East Nottingham Township and Elk Township. Arrowood is seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat that currently belongs to Joseph Tighe. Tighe is seeking reelection and has cross-filed.
In Avon Grove, incumbent Charles F. Beatty III is seeking the Republican nomination to represent Region I on the board. Dave Giacomini has cross-filed for this seat.
In Region II, where two seats are up-for-grabs, Jeff Billig and Tracy Lisi have both cross-filed.
Bonnie Wolff and Herman Engle, both incumbents on the school board, are seeking the nominations in Region III. Both have cross-filed.
Incumbent Dominic Perigo, Jr., a Republican, is seeking the nomination on the Republican side in Kennett Consolidated School District’s Region A. In Region B, two incumbents, Rudy Alfonso and Joseph Meola, have both cross-filed and are seeking the nominations for the two seats on the ballot.
Incumbent Michael Finnegan is seeking another four-year term in Kennett’s Region C.
In the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, in Region A (East Marlborough and West Marlborough townships), school board president Victor Dupuis is running unopposed for his seat. In Region B (Newlin, Pocopson and Birmingham townships), board member Robert Sage is running unopposed for his seat.
In Region C (Chadds Ford and Pennsbury townships), all three seats are open. Six candidates are running. Incumbent Carolyn Daniels is running on a team with John Murphy and Lorraine Ramunno. Incumbents Gregg Lindner and Kathleen Do are also running, on a team of three with challenger Beverly Brookes.
Many of the township supervisor races offer only as many candidates as there are seats on the ballot. This is the case with incumbent Glenn Frederick in London Britain Township, who is seeking a six-year term. Tiffany Bell, an incumbent in West Nottingham, is seeking the Republican nomination for a six-year term. In London Grove Township, Raymond Schoen is seeking the Republican nomination. In Kennett Township, Whitney Hoffman is seeking the Democratic nomination for a six-year term on the board of supervisors, while Ted Moxon is seeking the Republican nomination. Ron Kepler is looking to return to the Lower Oxford Township Board of Supervisors, while Dale Lauver is seeking another six-year term in New London Township. There are two Republican candidates, John Auerbach and Donna Dea, seeking to be nominated for the two seats up for election in Franklin Township.
In the East Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors, Richard Hicks and Christine Kimmel are vying for the Republican nomination.
In East Nottingham Township, longtime supervisor Gene Turns passed away last month. His name remains on the ballot for the Primary. Three other candidates—incumbent supervisor John Coldiron, Joseph Herlihy, and Shelley McLeod are vying for the two seats that are up for election this year. Jay Ennis and Radar O’Connell, both Republicans, are seeking the nominations for two seats that are open in Penn Township.
In Elk Township, Estace Walters, the incumbent vice chairman, and Raymond Ramberger are on the ballot for the Republican nomination.
Timothy Hancock and Howard Reyburn are each seeking the Republican nomination for a seat on the Upper Oxford Township Board of Supervisors.
In Oxford Borough, there are three council seats up for election. Longtime borough council member Randy Teel has decided not to seek another term, however incumbent John Thompson, a Republican, and Susan Lombardi, a Democrat, are seeking their party’s nomination for another term. Other candidates include Kathy Quillen, Jesse Yancoskie, and Chauncy Boyd. All three are seeking the nomination on the Republican side.
In West Grove Borough, the four candidates who have filed for the borough council race include Clyde Jacobs, Mark Johnson, Brinis Miller, and Michael Ranieri. There are four seats being elected this year.
There are three current Kennett Square Borough Council members—Leon Spencer, Chip Plumley, and Brett Irwin—whose terms are expiring at the end of this year.
Spencer, the current council president and a former mayor and school board member in Kennett, has decided not to seek another term because of his appointment last year to the Council of Trustees for Cheyney University. Doug Doerfler, a Democrat, has filed for one of the three seats on borough council.
In the race for Chester County Commissioner, each party will be nominating two candidates for the three-member board. The Republican candidates are both incumbents: Terence Farrell of West Chester, who has served as a county commissioner since 2008, and Michelle Kichline of Tredyffrin Township, who was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board in December of last year.
On the Democratic side, incumbent Kathi Cozzone of Uwchlan Township and Bill Scott of West Chester Borough are the nominees.
Incumbent District Attorney Tom Hogan is the lone candidate on the Republican side, while Tom Purl of Downingtown Borough is seeking the Democratic nomination.
Incumbent sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh of Pennsbury Township is seeking the Republican nomination, while James Bell of West Goshen Township is bidding for the nomination on the Democratic side.
Two West Chester Borough residents, Tisha Mae Brown, a Democrat, and Matt Holliday, a Republican, are seeking the party nomination for Prothonotary.
Terri Clark, a resident of West Goshen Township, is seeking the nomination for register of wills on the Republican side, while Lani Frank is bidding for the Democratic nomination for the position.
Rick Loughery, the incumbent recorder of deeds, is seeking the Republican nomination, while Hans Van Mol is seeking the Democratic nomination.