Flannelly, Platts
Flannelly, Platts

Common Pleas Judge Michael Flannelly will run for election of the seat he was appointed to last year, facing off against former Republican Congressman Todd Platts for an open position on York County's bench.

Flannelly announced the run Thursday and said he plans to cross-file as a Republican and a Democrat, so their battle for the seat might continue until November.

Because Platts is also cross-filing, one man could win the Democratic ticket and the other could win as a Republican in the May primary, forcing the contest to the general election.

Flannelly was appointed last July, filling the position left vacant after Judge Chuck Patterson died of a heart attack in 2011.

"I don't think it's any secret that it's been my passion to be a judge for many, many years," Flannelly said.

The Spring Garden Township resident and former York County Solicitor ran unsuccessfully for the bench three times, most recently in 2011. Though taking cases since last July, he must run and win the election if he wants to secure the seat for a full 10-year term.

The 56-year-old said his brief tenure on the bench has been an effective one because he had the experience needed to "get up and running" after only a short time.

He said that experience makes him more qualified than Platts, who represented the 19th Congressional District for 12 years before retiring earlier this year and last practiced law for about a year before entering politics 20 years ago.

"To my way of thinking, the only way to prepare yourself for being judge is to practice law for a long period of time, with a significant portion of that practice being devoted to litigation," Flannelly said.

Platts said he was glad there will be multiple candidates for the seat, as "I've always believed that more choices for the voters results in the best possible outcome for good government."

But he said he will run for the office, not against an opponent.

"My approach won't be impacted whether there's another candidate in the race or six other candidates in the race," he said.

Platts said he has had a law degree since 1991, but chose to use his legal background differently than Flannelly, by making laws and being a legislator.

He said his qualifications should be left to the voters.

"(Flannelly) was appointed, and now it's up to the voters to decide," he said. "Three of the most important characteristics for someone serving on the bench are integrity, intellect, and work ethic. I'm pleased to be judged by the voters on those three categories."

Background: Flannelly, originally from New Jersey, graduated from the College of Wooster in Ohio and got his law degree from Wake Forest College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

He moved to York and started practicing mostly civil law in 1983, hired the year after his graduation to work for the firm now known as Countess Gilbert Andrews.

He worked there for about 10 years, leaving a partnership at the firm to open his own practice in 1995. He worked at his practice until hired as county solicitor in 2004, holding that position until appointed to the bench last year.

He said he's been "tossed into a lot of areas of the law" since taking seat, with the daily caseload including everything from juvenile criminal work, divorces, ruling on civil motions, custody trials, and child support cases.

"The only way to be able to do that so quickly is the fact that I've been practicing law for 31 years," he said.

If elected, Flannelly would continue his focus with the county's juvenile drug court, one of three juvenile treatment courts.

"My emphasis if elected is to continue working on reducing recidivism and reducing the cost of juvenile justice," he said.

The juvenile drug court is - like the county's other treatment courts - aimed at addressing the root causes of crime through intensive counseling and monitoring, saving taxpayers money by avoiding prison or juvenile detention.

Instead of being placed in treatment that can cost more than $500 per day, juveniles in the program stay at home and are given counseling and treatment.

There are fewer repeat-offenders, and the treatment court costs less than traditional sentencing, Flannelly said.

- Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.