York County judge candidates tout their experience


Seven candidates vying for two open seats on the York County Court of Common Pleas bench took part in the first forum of the election season Thursday night.

The forum, hosted by the York 912 Patriots and held at Wyndham Garden York hotel in West Manchester Township, also featured candidates for the state Supreme and Superior courts.

The Court of Common Pleas candidates are: York County Solicitor Mike Flannelly, District Judge Tom Reilly and attorneys Karen Comery, Chris Menges, Carl Anderson, Kathleen Prendergast and Neil Slenker. All cross-filed as Democrats and Republicans, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State, meaning their names will appear on both ballots in the primary.

The primary is Tuesday, May 19.

Here's a brief look at what each of the candidates had to say:

•Anderson said he brings more than 30 years of experience to the courts, having worked as a trial attorney and served as chief counsel for the state's Department of Banking in former Gov. Ed Rendell's administration.

"It is important for the citizenry of York County to believe that (the) court will administer justice in a fair and equitable way. I believe I have the experience. I have the broad life and professional experience and the confidence to serve the citizens ... as a judge," he said, adding he also would bring diversity to the bench. "I think diversity is important to York County."

•Comery said she is a former "top prosecutor" in the county's district attorney's office, where she helped "to put away some of the York County's most notorious killers." She is now a defense attorney.

She also has worked closely with the county's drug task force and its SWAT-style unit and was a college professor.

"I am running because I want to (hold) criminals accountable ... (to) give victims a voice," she said. "I have dedicated my entire career to serving the citizens of York County."

•Flannelly is the only candidate to have served on the common pleas bench, having been appointed to a vacant post in 2012. He was unsuccessful in retaining the seat in the 2013 election.

However, it was during that election that Flannelly received high praise from more than 95 percent of his fellow attorneys who responded to a poll by the York County Bar Association. Those respondents rated him either "highly qualified" or "qualified."

"As I understand it, that is a rating that's unprecedented for a judicial candidate," he said. "I'm particularly proud of that rating because ... half of the lawyers that come in front of you lose their case, and I'm pleased to say that they didn't hold it against me. They lost, but they felt that they got a fair and impartial hearing."

•Menges said he's running for judge because "our country is in deep trouble."

"It's in deep trouble from stem to stern. It's in deep trouble because it's gotten so far away from its moorings, from the Judeo-Christian values this country was founded on," he said. "I want to try to get this country back to those values."

He said he was a trial lawyer for 38 years, focusing mainly on family law for the past 20 years, and was an assistant district attorney.

•Prendergast has been practicing law in the county for 21 years and before that was an English teacher at Dallastown Area High School.

As an attorney, she's spent much of her career in the courtroom.

"I've appeared in front of almost every judge that has been on the bench the last 20 years," she said, adding she'd be able to "start doing the job on day one" if elected.

"As a judge I would be tough on crime," she said. "Judges have to know when to be tough, but they also have to know when to show compassion."

•Reilly is a Seven Valleys-area district judge who was previously a prosecutor in the district attorney's office and, before that, was a defense attorney.

As a prosecutor, Reilly said, he worked on the streets with drug enforcement authorities gathering evidence.

"With the heroin epidemic running rampant on our streets and all the spin-off crimes that involves ... it is of utmost importance we get the right people on the bench," he said, adding a judge has to make the right ruling in each case. "It's imperative that we get this right and we get it right the first time."

•Slenker has been an attorney at York City law firm Stock and Leader his entire nearly 20-year career, representing the "entire gamut" of clients.

"It's given me a broad background and experience," he said. "I want to represent traditional York County values on the bench, and I want to give back to the community that's been very good to me and my family."

Additional information: For more information about the candidates, go to yorkdispatch.com and click the "Election 2015" link.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.