Judge candidates speak at courthouse luncheon

HOLLIDAYSBURG – The three candidates seeking to replace retired Blair County Judge Hiram A. Carpenter appeared at noon Tuesday for a first-ever Blair County Bar Association meet-the-candidates luncheon in the courthouse.

Maryann Joyce Bistline, president of the bar association, said the county’s attorneys were in favor of the pizza-and-politics get-together to meet the trio – attorney Dave Andrews, Magisterial District Judge Fred B. Miller and Deputy District Attorney Wade A. Kagarise

The three candidates outlined why they were running for office and what they hoped to do if elected.

Miller, 42, of Tyrone said that during his 10 years as a magisterial district judge, he has handled more than 30,000 cases, including criminal preliminary hearings, protection-from-abuse petitions, search warrants and arrest warrants.

He said he supports establishing a Veterans Court and Mental Health Court in Blair County to go along with other specialty courts in the county.

Miller said he would like to see a one-family, one-judge procedure introduced to address family problems. This would mean that a judge would handle all of the issues involving a particular family, whether they involved PFAs, custody or marital issues.

He also supports the development of a Child Advocacy Center to address child abuse issues.

Kagarise, 40, of Hollidaysburg said he has been devoted to public service throughout his life, including his service in the Army, his quest to become an attorney and his seeking of the judgeship.

Kagarise, who has been in the District Attorney’s Office for 15 years, said when he began the job he may have had to go to the scene of a homicide once a year or maybe once every two years. In the last couple of years, he has been to scenes of two triple homicides and a double homicide.

He also noted that attorneys in custody cases used to work out issues between mothers and fathers. Now the issues seem to involve many grandparents raising grandchildren because the parents are drug addicted or in custody.

He promised to be a hardworking judge and said he would be effective because of his varied experience.

Andrews, 60, of Altoona said he started his career 36 years ago as an assistant district attorney, then joined one of the county’s largest law firms, Evey, Black of Hollidaysburg, where he worked for 12 years.

In 1989, he opened his own law firm, Andrews and Beard, which now has seven lawyers.

He said he has dealt with a variety of issues, from auto accidents to real estate to tax cases. He has argued cases outside Pennsylvania and in the federal courts. Andrews said he has been admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

He would like to see Blair County adopt technology now prevalent in the federal courts, such as electronic filing.

Andrews said he wants to “give back” by serving as a judge, which he said is the pinnacle of the legal profession.

Attorney Norman D. Callan, a former judge, was in the audience. He said each of the candidates “has unique qualifications,” and it will be a tough choice for the voters of Blair County.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.