Open Seat in Commonwealth Court of Southeastern PA Attorney Wanted

BERKS COUNTY, PA — A southeastern Pennsylvania civil rights attorney is hoping to fill a vacancy at the state’s Commonwealth Court, a unique court that originally has jurisdiction over matters but also oversees appeal challenges.

Joshua Prince of the Civil Rights Defense Firm, PC, in Bechtelsville, Berks County, has put his name on the candidacy for judge of the Commonwealth Court, a unique chamber that Prince says is the only court in the country which functions as both a trial court and an appeals court.

Prince, a licensed attorney since 2009, spoke with Patch on Tuesday about his Commonwealth Court bid, legal philosophies and his status as a fourth-generation attorney, since his great-grandfather also practiced law in Pennsylvania, Prince’s home state.

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“I’ve spent my entire career defending civil rights at the state and federal levels,” Prince said.

Prince, who attended Widener University Law School in Harrisburg and received his license to practice law in October 2009, said he has practiced before the Commonwealth Court and has even successfully obtained numerous injunctions in cases brought before that court.

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“Uniqueness” of the farm

“I love the uniqueness of the Commonwealth Court,” Prince said of the Commonwealth Court, whose judges deal with matters of original jurisdiction – when the panel is acting in a judicial capacity – as well as matters of appeal.

Typically courts are either trial courts or appellate courts – not both.

“You get a very broad experience from a litigation perspective,” he said of his work in court.

The Commonwealth Court vacancy was created when former Justice P. Kevin Brobson left the Judiciary last year to join the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Prince said he initially put his name in the running to fill Brobson’s tenure at Commonwealth Court, but Gov. Tom Wolf never responded to the appointment, though the appointment could occur anytime between now and spring.

And even if the appointment goes ahead, Prince still plans to run for the seat in next year’s 2023 election cycle. (Even if he wins the appointment, he must still run to retain the seat, since all judges in Pennsylvania are elected.)

Will not legislate from the bank

Prince said the issue of “court legislation” seems to be widespread in recent times, and he believes the three branches of jurisdiction really need to maintain the separateness established by the nation’s founders.

“I’m not going to legislate from the bench,” Prince said.

All too often, the judiciary has been “ready to usurp the authority of the legislature and basically legislate as they see fit through judicial decisions,” said Prince, who lives in east Berks County, just across the Montgomery County line , was born and raised.

Prince has apparently already made an impression with his legal philosophy; He has received numerous endorsements from gun rights organizations to a law enforcement group.

He has garnered the support of Firearms Owners Against Crime, a gun rights and civil rights group in Pennsylvania, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association.

On the latter, Prince said he believes it is the first time in the group’s history that it has endorsed a judicial candidate at the nomination stage, as opposed to an election run.

“Attorney Joshua Prince has always been a civil rights advocate and stands firmly in his support of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the US Constitution,” Joseph Groody, president of the Sheriffs’ Association, wrote in a letter to Gov. Wolf in March. “He knows and learns the laws of this Commonwealth and has tried dozens of cases successfully before the Courts of Appeal and mostly the Commonwealth Court. He has successfully managed both state and federal cases and is a strong advocate for protecting our civil liberties, the Second Amendment, mental health liberties and workers’ compensation rights. We believe he would serve the people and courts of the Commonwealth Bank well and without prejudice.

Members of the State House also wrote a letter in support of Prince’s candidacy late last year, stating, “We can think of no other person who, through thought and action, has shown a greater commitment to upholding the Constitution and a philosophy of judicial restraint .”

And in their own letter last February, state senators also supported Prince for the nomination, saying Prince’s “extensive experience, particularly before the Commonwealth Court, includes advocating constitutional rights, disability claims for workers’ compensation, mental health and COVID / Problems related to the state of emergency.”

“Attorney Prince is fully qualified to sit in Commonwealth Court and his writings – not just his words – reflect his passionate and unwavering commitment to defending the PA and US Constitution from a strictly Constructivist perspective,” the senators wrote .

“Last Line of Defense”

On his campaign website, Prince shares a quote that justice is the “citizen’s last line of defense for their freedom and their rights, which must be safeguarded and defended.

“Through this prism, I will apply the written law and the Constitution as intended,” writes Prince.

Prince, who handles a wide range of legal matters, said he has spent most of his legal career practicing before the Commonwealth Court, which requires special skills not all lawyers possess.

Lawyers practicing before the courts need to know how to raise objections, properly prepare a case and argue legal points as the Commonwealth Court acts as the trial court, but they also need to know about appeals procedures as the court also hears appeals due to its unique jurisprudence edits mission.

“I’ve had a lot of success in my Commonwealth Court career,” he said.

Prince, 41 and a registered Republican, said he first joined his father Warren’s law firm when he graduated from law school in 2009 but then started his own practice, Civil Rights Defense Firm. PC, which also includes a division called Firearms Industry Consulting Group, which owns a registered trademark.

Given Prince’s work in gun law, the attorney gained the support of the Second Amendment Foundation, whose executive vice president, Alan Gottlieb, released a statement supporting Prince’s candidacy for Commonwealth Court.

“Josh Prince has displayed the legal temper and demonstrated the values ​​that are vital to our justice system,” Gottlieb wrote. “It is imperative that judges abide by constitutional requirements while remaining an impartial arbitrator, and I have no doubt that Mr Prince will do just that. His legal work demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of the law, its application and proper outcome based on the mere text of the law itself, not on his personal feelings on the matter.”

You can read more about Prince and his bid for Commonwealth Court on his campaign website here.

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