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Judicial candidate Steve Serfass on the issues

  • Steve Serfass
    Steve Serfass
Published October 31. 2009 09:00AM

1. What should voters be looking for when choosing a Carbon County judge?

Voters should be looking for the right experience, the right background, and the type of practice that the particular lawyer has handled throughout his or her career. A broad-based general practice is, in my opinion, the type of practice which prepares one well for the challenge and the opportunity and privilege of serving as a County trial judge.

That is because in a county like ours, we have a very broad court docket. The judge that we elect, like both full time judges that we have now, are going to be hearing cases across the broad spectrum of the law. We aren't going to have one judge that hears only domestic cases, one judge that hears only criminal cases, and one judge that hears only orphans court contest or will contests.

We have judges in this county, like most small rural counties, that hear cases across the broad spectrum of the law. Therefore, it is extremely important from a background perspective that the individual that the voter is looking at, has a broad-based experience across the broad spectrum of the law.

That's the best preparation to serve as a County trial judge. That's the type of background that I have. I think voters should look at that, and the right mix of legal experience and personal background as well.

2. What experience has prepared you for becoming a Carbon County judge?

I've had the good fortune of having actively practiced law in a general practice here for my entire legal career. During that time, I've faced the challenges of self-education in new and unfamiliar areas. That's given me a broad exposure in many fields of the law.

During that time, I've represented numerous municipalities. I've counseled public officials, and I've enjoyed serving the public, reaching fair, reasonable common sense solutions to a broad range of issues-all of which is invaluable to a County trial judge.

I mentioned that I am a general practitioner. We do a lot of different types of things at our law firm. I happen to handle a lot of municipal law. I represent many municipalities, school districts, townships, boroughs, zoning hearing boards, planning commissions and water authorities. We also do estate work, landlord-tenant work, local business counseling, civil trial work, criminal work, and so, it is that broad experience across the broad spectrum of the law, that I think prepares one very well for the task of being a County trial judge.

Quite frankly, given that's my background, it is a natural extension of what I have done and, also, it is evidence of my desire and commitment to continue in public service to the people of Carbon County.

3. What are the current challenges that you expect to face as judge?

Certainly there is a backlog of cases in the court system. Our judges and our court administration do a wonderful job of moving those cases through the system as quickly as possible. There is only so much that two full-time judges can handle, even though we have been fortunate to have judge Webb assisting whenever he is able.

That backlog has led to a situation where the legislature recognized the need for this newly created third judgeship. One of the first challenges the new judge is going to face is to roll up their sleeves and to handle their fair share of those cases which perhaps aren't moving through the system as quickly as either judge Addy or Judge Nanovic would like to have them move, but due to the constraints that they have with the number of cases that are out there, just simply have not been able to move through as quickly as they might like.

I think the most important challenge facing the new judge is to become involved extremely quickly, get up to speed with the cases that are pending, and again, they will be cases across the broad spectrum of the law. It's a matter of whether we are talking about custody cases, criminal cases, civil trail case, that new judge is going to have his or her share of each one of those types of cases. That's going to be the most important challenge. That's going to occupy this new judge for some time.

4. What can the court system do to reduce the number of juvenile offenders?

One of the important facets of the issues that we face with juvenile offenders is oftentimes the example that they have at home. I think it is important for the system as a whole, certainly the court, to emphasize the importance of family, and the importance of a good education as the cornerstone of a productive life.

So many times these juveniles tend to fall through the cracks. It's important for the court to recognize that. It is important for the court to emphasize that there are real consequences. Juvenile or not, there are real consequences to making the wrong choices in life.

One has to distinguish between hardened criminals and a young person who has made a mistake in life. The court needs to be cognizant of the fact there certainly those situations where the court must be compassionate in dealing with those juvenile offenders. There also comes a time when the court must be firm in its application of the law and strict in the sense of the administration of justice to be sure that these young offenders understand that there are real life consequences to the poor choices that they make.

Certainly, you don't want to send the wrong message as to how those offenders are dealt with. That is one of the most important things the court could do in that regard.

5. What do you think about the growing prison population and what response should society have to prison overcrowding?

The growing prison population is, in many respects, a tragedy. The fact that there are so many individuals that find themselves in a position of, when they violate the law, there are consequences to that. Society, as a whole, can't tolerate a situation where there are rampant and repeated violations of the criminal statutes. We have to take a hard look at that and what society's response needs to be with regard to that overcrowding.

While there may be some situations where there may be leniency that's called for with regard to the specific offense, it's important that the offenders understand that there are genuine consequences to bad choices, and there are consequences to the actions that they take in the sense that there is a violation of a criminal statute, and that violation carries with it a term of imprisonment,

The court cannot hesitate but to enforce that specific penalty with regard to a prison term whether that is at the county level or at the state level. Once those violations occur, we have to be very clear to send a message to these people who would break these statutes and who would commit crimes against their fellow Carbon Countians that that type of activity will not be tolerated. There are real consequences and you are going to loose your freedom as a result of that.

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