District Judge Candidates Share Their Views on Forum – The Advocate-Messenger
The two candidates for district judge in Boyle and Mercer counties had the opportunity to answer questions from the public at a forum on Tuesday.
The forum was organized by the Boyle Justice Advocates with assistance from the Chamber of Commerce and the Hometown Radio Network. The event was streamed live on the Hometown Live Facebook page and Youtube channel, and ckytv.net on ckytv 2. For those wishing to watch the full forum, click here.
The nominees are Stacy E. Coontz and Patrick F. Barsotti for the 50th Judicial District.
Coontz graduated from Boyle County High School in 1993. She received a BA in Political Science and Journalism from the UK and received her Juris Doctor from the UK Law School in 2000. She served as a public defender in the US District Court Eastern District for 16 years, then worked at the Helton Law Office from 2017 to 2022. She was appointed as a district judge for the 50th District earlier this year.
She said she has represented people charged with everything from reckless driving to capital murder, and has been a juvenile specialist for 14 years.
“The juvenile court is one of my passions; it’s a place where I believe we can be very effective and help people,” she said.
Barsotti graduated from Boyle County High School in 2007, then graduated from Center College with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2011. He received his Juris Doctor from the UK College of Law in 2015. He was a Commonwealth Assistant Solicitor in Ohio County from 2015. to 2017. He returned to Boyle County in 2017 for a private practice focused on criminal defense. He is currently an Assistant Boyle County District Attorney.
“I have defended individuals and also prosecuted them, and I think that gives me a unique ability to understand what is a fair outcome in court and what is a fair outcome considering the case” , Barsotti said.
The candidates had the opportunity to explain what happens in the district court and why people should care. They both said that most people who have to go to court go to district court.
The District Court is where every day small things are handled like speeding tickets, probate cases, restraining orders, name changes, domestic violence cases, small claims, if someone needs a court-appointed guardian, etc.
Both candidates answered the question of whether they were willing to consider alternative forms of treatment for people with drug and/or mental health issues, rather than just incarceration.
Barsotti said he is open to other forms of treatment.
“We have a problem with drugs, alcohol and mental health issues, and often those two issues overlap, and they’re commonly referred to as dual diagnosis situations,” Barsotti said.
He continued: “I think a judge has an obligation to consider all possible sentencing options when considering how to deal with a specific case. They have to consider the circumstances, how they got there, what’s going on with them; but at the end of the day, I think there is also a time and a place for incarceration and the use of prison.
Barsotti said the jail now offers inpatient services and the county attorney’s office has routinely allowed offenders to serve time under inpatient treatment and uses the Rocket Docket program.
“There are benefits to using our community’s resources to try to solve these problems, but we also have to make sure that the primary goal is to keep our roads and our community safe,” Barsotti said.
Coontz said she was also open to other sentencing options and other forms of treatment.
“When I was a public defender and when I was in private practice, I put plans in place so these people could get treatment,” Coontz said. “In recent months I have been on the bench, I have signed several orders to allow people to go for treatment, either through police custody or we release them for treatment or as a condition of a sort of probation, either as a condition of an alternative sentencing plan.
She said Shepherds House in Boyle County and across the state is one of the best places for people with substance use disorders to seek treatment, and the court should continue. to use it.
“I hope that I will always be on the side of the safety of everyone, not just the community but also the person, whether it is incarceration or treatment or an alternative to the detention plan. , I’m going to review everything,” Coontz said.
Another question they answered is what they believe is the best way to deal with juvenile cases.
Coontz, who served as a juvenile specialist for 14 years, said the best program they ever had was at Boyle Juvenile Court through what was then Comp Care and now New Vista. She explained that it was a grant-funded program called the Miners’ Coordination Program, but the grant ended in 2019 and the program stopped.
“The juvenile coordination program was a wonderful way to make sure the kids didn’t get into trouble,” Coontz said. “It was a group project. The family went to therapy, the kids went to therapy, they went to drug treatment, they went to mental health treatment…the school system worked with the kids to make sure there was no more of problems.
Coontz said she spoke with the folks at New Vista and they got the money back and could get the program going again. She said the success rate was 80-85% and she wanted it back with youth court.
Barsotti agreed with Coontz, saying the most important thing for kids to do is to get involved to help them.
“It takes a village to raise a child, and it starts in our schools and continues in our courts where appropriate,” Barsotti said. “I would also support the expansion of juvenile programs to help ensure that minors are educated, so they understand the consequences of their actions.”
When asked what their best characteristics are that would make them good district judges, Coontz said she cared about people.
“I have the experience, I’ve practiced law for 22 years, and I really care about people,” Coontz said. “I want every person in Boyle and Mercer counties to feel when they come before me that they have been heard.”
She continued: “I care about what happens to everyone who comes into the courtroom, whether it’s a criminal defendant or someone in a small claims case, and I think one of my best characteristics is that I care about people.”
Barsotti said, “I have a passion for people, I have a passion for this community, and I care about every person that comes into the courtroom, whether I’m suing them or representing them; everyone has a story and it’s important to remember that we are dealing with people, not goods.
Barsotti said he also had the proper leadership abilities to get the job done effectively.
The candidates also answered questions regarding the ethics of the district judge and how they would handle any ethical dilemmas, among other topics. To watch the full forum, click the link at the top of this article.