Pool of Judicial Candidates Deepens

Categories:  News & Politics    Opinion
Monday, February 2nd, 2015 at 11:08 PM
Pool of Judicial Candidates Deepens by Jim Wertz

The pool of candidates for Erie County judge continues to grow.

Joining to the pack are local attorneys Chad Vilushis and Joe Walsh.

Vilushis, who announced his campaign January 23, is currently a trial lawyer with the Travis Law Firm in Erie. He began his law career clerking for Ernest DiSantis, whose retirement along with that of Shad Connelly have created the two vacancies on the Erie County Court of Common Pleas which will be filled during the 2015 election cycle. Vilushis later went on to work in the Erie District Attorney’s Office under Brad Foulk, who appointed Vilushis Deputy District Attorney in 2003. He held that post until 2005 when he joined the Travis Law firm.

If one considers connection to the bench an asset in the May primary, then Vilushis and Erin Connelly, daughter of Shad Connelly, may share strong prospects for success. Whether or not that actually translates into the kind of social capital that wins municipal elections remains to be seen.   

Joe Walsh announced his candidacy on January 29. Walsh is a partner at Shapira, Hutzelman, Smith & Walsh, the same firm that’s also the professional home of Ed Smith, former president of the Erie County Bar Association who announced his candidacy for judge on January 15. Walsh has practiced law in Erie since 1986 and served as the mental health review officer for Erie County Courts since 1991.

Walsh joins Damon Hopkins and Jamie Mead as candidates making their second bid for the bench. Walsh, like Mead, came in second in the 2013 primary election. Walsh received nearly 6,500 votes, but lost by less than 100 votes in the Democratic primary to Republican Bill Kelly, Jr., who cross-filed in the primary as is customary in judicial races.

Mead lost the Republican primary to Bob Sambroak, Jr., who ultimately won the general election and a seat on the Erie County Court of Common Pleas.

Local professor and attorney Elvage Murphy rounds out the field of candidates thus far. Murphy is an Erie lawyer in private practice and a faculty member in the Department of Criminal Justice, Political Science and Legal Studies at Edinboro University. Murphy previously served as an assistant district attorney and an assistant prosecutor, both in Erie County. Murphy announced his candidacy January 20.

The crowd of candidates is expected to grow even more crowded before the May 19 primary election.

I’ll remind you Reader readers: It’s time to get judgy. Each candidate will cross-file for the May primary, so things can get confusing before you step to your favorite electronic voting machine. All the more reason to crack a Reader or bookmark your browser. These are the judges who will hear major civil and criminal cases. Two judges in one election is cause for many a common plea.

Jim Wertz can be reached at jWertz@ErieReader.com, and you can follow him @jim_wertz.

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