My three siblings and I had very happy childhoods growing up in Lancaster Township. My father was an obstetrician and my mother was a nurse. I am a proud product of the public schools here; I graduated from McCaskey in 1981. I learned about the value of different perspectives and creative problem-solving. At McCaskey, we had a diverse student body. I learned to be comfortable with all different kinds of people, and I learned to listen to people. That has also helped me in my career.
I majored in Latin American Studies at Wesleyan and learned to speak Spanish. After college, I went to Washington, D.C., where I worked as a criminal investigator for court-appointed Attorneys in the District of Columbia. Many of the lawyers who I worked for there just went through the motions and did not care about what happened with their clients. That experience showed me that not everyone gets the same representation. My frustration upon witnessing a legal system that doesn’t serve people motivated me to go to law school to become a public defender. I wanted to work towards the ideal of equal justice under the law.
In 1996, I moved home to Lancaster to be with my parents, as my dad was struggling with cancer. I joined the Lancaster County Public Defender’s Office. I started my own practice because I wanted more freedom to stand up for the values of my community. I still represent people in the criminal justice system; I have also represented people in civil rights actions. I met my law partner by working together on a wrongful death case which occurred at the Lancaster County Prison in 1998. We have worked to hold the County Prison accountable and help reform its practices. We have had over a dozen similar cases over the years, and there is still a lot of work to do.
I believe the idea of equal justice under the law includes the principles of fairness and impartiality. These principles remind me of the Book of Proverbs, where we are called to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute,” and to “speak up and judge fairly and defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs, 31, 8-9). I have taken that to heart in my career as a Defense Attorney and will continue to heed that call as the District Attorney.