Attorney Anthony J. Magnotta has announced that he is seeking the office of District Magistrate in District Court 60-3-02. The bench is presently held by Judge Shannon Muir, who previously announced she was not seeking a second six-year term.
PALMYRA TOWNSHIP (Pike) - Attorney Anthony J. Magnotta has announced that he is seeking the office of District Magistrate in District Court 60-3-02. The bench is presently held by Judge Shannon Muir, who previously announced she was not seeking a second six-year term.
The District covers Blooming Grove, Greene and Palmyra Townships in Pike County.
He is running on a split ticket, Republican and Democrat, as is his only opponent, Randy Schmalzle. Voters will decide at the Primary Election, May 21.
Typically known as attorney Tony Magnotta, he cited his abilities to be fair and impartial, and to be able to fit the law with the facts and yield an acceptable outcome.
Magnotta has been practicing law for 37 years, and said that said that he has long wanted the opportunity to serve in a judicial capacity. He first considered running for District Court 60-3-02 last time, but chose not to proceed when he realized attorney Muir was seeking the position.
A native of Scranton, Magnotta graduated from the University of Scranton with a B.S. degree in 1979, and completed his law degree at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, in 1982.
He was first admitted to the bar that year, and went to work as an associate attorney with Attorney Randolph Borden in Wayne County. Magnotta said that Borden served as his mentor. In 1988 he formed a law partnership with attorney John Spall.
In 1998, Magnotta opened his own practice on Route 590 in Lakeville, and two years later opened his present office at 1307 Purdytown Turnpike.
He was admitted in 1984 to U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania; in 1988 to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit; 1983, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania; 1982, Pennsylvania; and 1990, U.S. Supreme Court.
He first served as a general practice attorney, also doing civil and commercial litigation and real estate law. From 1993 to 2003 Magnotta was Assistant District Attorney under Wayne County District Attorney Mark Zimmer.
During that time, Judge Robert Conway appointed him as a divorce master and custody mediator.
In the late 1990’s Magnotta’s law practice shifted from litigation to municipal law. He also represents sewer authorities and private homeowner associations. He is also doing estate cases, estate planning and real estate transactions.
The candidate said he is very familiar with the courtroom, having served for 20 years with cases in Wayne, Pike, Monroe, Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties. He has represented clients at many hearings on the district court level, both in Wayne and Pike Counties.
Help people get day in court
Reflecting on the purpose and duties of the office of District Magistrate, Magnotta expressed concern that not everyone feels they will get a fair chance in court.
He lamented that in “small claims” court, for a lot of people, they may hesitate to even take their case to court. While a $1,000 claim may be “small” in the judicial world, it isn’t small to many in the public, who may be concerned they cannot afford a lawyer and the claim may not be worth pursuing. Rather, they may go to court representing themselves or have concern that the other side will have legal representation.
He noted it is not the magistrate’s role to either defend or prosecute, but to ensure that a case is handled fairly according to the law.
In criminal matters, it is the magistrate who first hears the case, and decides if there is sufficient evidence to bound over a misdemeanor or felony charge for trial in the county court.
Summary cases, however, are heard only at district court, where the district magistrate serves as both judge and jury, Magnotta said. He also has been involved in many local ordinance violations in District Court. When he served as solicitor for Hawley there was a push to enforce the ordinance of shoveling one’s sidewalk within a certain time period after a storm.
He said he has heard many people feel they didn’t get a fair court hearing because the judge seemed to be distracted. Being a good listener, Magnotta said, is essential, along with being fair and impartial. “I’ll try and make sure they have their day in court,” Magnotta said.
Although the district judge and his or her office staff are prohibited from giving legal advice, Magnotta said some people need help in finding access stop court. They are asked to fill out a complaint form, whether it is online or at the district office, but there is nothing to advise them to attach any relevant, supporting documents. As district judge, he said he could make a suggestion to the administrative court to provide this information, perhaps on a flyer. For many people, having a case heard before the magistrate is their first experience with the judicial system, and he said they may need a little education.
He said it is his goal find a way to make people feel comfortable that their case will be listened to, and they will get a fair and impartial verdict.
If elected, he said he plans to maintain his law practice part-time, although limiting it to such matters as real estate law, estates, estate planning and commercial law.
During his years at Duquesne University he married his high school sweetheart, Linda. They have raised four children, Lauren, Neal, Derrick and Alaina, and have four grandchildren. He and Linda make their home in Palmyra Township. The candidate said he enjoys golf, and spending time with his grandkids.