York County Judge Michael Flannelly and retired U.S. Rep. Todd Platts both agreed that the court system should be proactive in dealing with juvenile drug and crime issues.

"I agree with Platts," said Flannelly. "The judiciary is getting in at the back end of the process now trying to clean up a mess."

Platts had already stated that the bench can provide information from courtroom experiences to help parents, police and law officials to "get on the front end" of the juvenile crime and violence issues.

However, the two men had very few agreements during a candidates' forum held Wednesday by the Southern York County Republican Club at the Shrewsbury Fire Hall. More than 40 people listened to Flannelly and Platts answer questions asked by moderator and retired district judge Walt Reamer.


Both candidates have cross-filed as Republican and Democrat for the May 21 primary, but both men were Republicans prior to candidacy.

While discussing judge qualifications, Platts said besides the legal background, a judge needs to have integrity, a good work ethic, trustworthiness and temperance.

However, Flannelly said there are other attributes needed to resolve cases and minimize the chances for rulings or decisions to be used for appeals.

"You have to make rulings accurately and quickly on the spot," he said. "If you don't know how to make rulings, your integrity will come into play."

Flannelly said the public should pay close attention to the upcoming results of the York County Bar Association survey in which local lawyers rate candidates with whom they've had courtroom experience.

However, Platts said that he doesn't expect to do well on the survey because his law service has been mainly as a legislator.

"My interest is the 400,000 (county) residents, not just 200 to 300 lawyers," Platts said. "The majority of the judges are not litigators. You want a diverse bench with diverse backgrounds."

Platts, also a youth sports coach for more than a decade, said that because of his career as a state legislator and U.S. congressman, he understands why laws were made and would understand how to use them to make swift and just decisions.

Flannelly said his 30-year law career has prepared him to be where he is now as a judge, and he believes that he has shown the public that be belongs in the seat.

Flannelly was the county's solicitor when he was appointed to the seat last July, filling the position left vacant after Judge Chuck Patterson died of a heart attack in 2011.

Platts, an attorney, was a state legislator for eight years and represented the 19th Congressional District for 12 years before retiring early this year. Platts said he kept his promise to self-impose a 12-year term limit, but still has the desire to serve the public.

After the forum, Eric Bucalo, 39, of Shrewsbury, said he was impressed by Flannelly's directness in answering questions.

"He focused more on the position of judge, but the other candidate talked more about what he did in Congress," Bucalo said. "I think I've made my (voting) decision, based on what I heard."

Jim Morfe, 74, of Shrewsbury Township, said both Flannelly and Platts had a "good debate," but he's leaning toward supporting Flannelly because Flannelly already is serving as judge and should keep the seat.

"And I think Flannelly would better be the one to continue the work Patterson was doing," Morfe said.

However, Bonner Smith, the Stewartstown mayor running for York County Controller office, said the judge race comes down to choosing between two "nice guys" who are well-qualified and would each be a fantastic judge.

"Flannelly might have more experience from getting (Patterson's seat), but Platts would be just as fair as anyone else," Smith said. "He's fair and honest all the way down the line."

-Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at emcmillan@yorkdispatch.com.