York attorney Suzanne Smith running for common pleas judge
A longtime local attorney running for York County common pleas judge said she possesses key attributes people should want in a judge, including integrity, civility and a thorough understanding of the law.
"(If elected) I'm going to treat people fairly and be respectful, and I'm going to follow the law," Suzanne Smith said — not try to remake it.
Smith, 54, still enjoys being an attorney.
"But I also believe that when lawyers have enough experience and knowledge, and offer the right skill set to be a judge, we should step up," she said. "I think it's incumbent upon us as lawyers to ensure we get well-qualified judges on the bench."
York County voters will elect two common pleas judges in November to fill the vacancy left when Judge Richard K. Renn retired in January 2020 and the vacancy that will be created when Judge Craig T. Trebilcock retires at the end of 2021.
An active trial attorney, Smith said she is cross-filing as both a Republican and a Democrat.
"I think I have a good temperament to be a judge. I would also bring wisdom and experience to the bench," she said. "I have represented both victims and defendants. I have an understanding of what it's like to be in a courtroom, because I'm in courtrooms all the time."
Wants to 'do more': Smith is currently a member of the West York School Board and was the board's president last year.
"After being on the school board, I started thinking more seriously about running for judge," she said. "I started thinking I could do more as a judge."
Raised in Erie, Smith came to York County in 1992 to clerk for now-retired Common Pleas Judge John C. Uhler. In 1993 she was hired as an assistant York County public defender.
She moved to private practice in 1997, then returned to the public defender's office in 1998 as first assistant public defender, she said. That's the No. 2 position in the office.
In 2004 Smith began working as an associate for the former Kearney & Marshall law firm after Tom Kearney asked her to join the business. In 2010 the business became Marshall & Smith law firm after Kearney left the practice to serve as a two-term York County district attorney.
Smith remains in private practice, currently part of the Kearney Galloway Graybill law firm. She's also an adjunct professor of law at Gettysburg College and has handled death-penalty cases.
Local attorneys Larry Young and Suzanne Griest, both longtime friends of Smith, are her campaign managers, she said.
Bar association: Smith has played an active role in the York County Bar Association.
She was president in 2013-14, was an officer/board member from 2007 to 2016 and has co-chaired a number of its committees, including one on providing pro bono (free) legal services to people in need, according to her resume.
Smith also serves on Pennsylvania Bar Association committees as part of her duties as delegate to that organization, representing the York County bar.
The awards she's received from the York County Bar Association include its pro bono award in 2020 and member of the year award in 2017. She received the state bar's pro bono award in 2017.
Smith said she's a proponent of the county's treatment courts, also called wellness courts, because they are focused on turning defendants into productive members of society, thereby saving taxpayers the high costs of incarceration.
Proud mom: Smith has two adult daughters, both of whom graduated from West York Area High School.
Jordann, 23, is a graduate of George Washington University, lives outside Boston and works in Hartford, Connecticut. Rebecca, 21, is a senior at Temple University and is currently doing student teaching, her mother said.
Smith can regularly be found walking and running on the York County Heritage Rail Trail with her family's dog, Clara.
— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.