2 vie for district justice seat in eastern Berks County

OLEY >> Two candidates are seeking an open seat in eastern Berks County after District Judge Victor M. Frederick IV has decided not to seek reelection.

Matthew James, 45, of Ruscombmanor, and Steven Chieffo, 48, of Birdsboro, are seeking the seat for District Court 23-3-03, located in Oley. The court covers the Alsace, Amity, District, Longswamp, Oley, Pike, Rockland and Ruscombmanor townships and the borough of Topton.

James, whose background is in law, said he hopes to make use of that experience if elected to the position.

“The reason I’m running is because I think I’ll do a good job. I don’t want to push my party’s agenda. You can’t do that as a judge. It’s based on making a community safe and resolving problems at the neighborhood level. I care about that position and I want to see it handled correctly. I hope that because of my experience I’ll be more likely to bring a skill set with me to the bench,” said James.

Advertisement

James graduated from Albright College in 1994 and went on to receive a law degree from Penn State Dickinson Law in 1997. Afterward he went on to work as an assistant district attorney in Berks County as well as Ononeaga County in New York. He later worked for civil litigation firms in Philadelphia and New York as well as a litigation manager for an international insurance company.

“At the community level, it’s the first people will see of the court system. You need decorum and some level of respect coming from the bench as much as the judge expects to be receiving it. I hope my experience going in front of so many judges will bring a balance,” James added.

Chieffo, with years of law enforcement experience under his belt, said he decided to run because it was a seat he had always appreciated.

“Running for district justice is always something I thought of doing since I was a police officer. I’ve always appreciated the district justice seat as a community position,” said Chieffo.

Chieffo began his career in law enforcement at the age of 18. He attended the Reading Police Academy and subsequently became an officer in Oley Township. He was then hired as a part-time officer for three other departments, including Amity, Birdsboro and Temple borough. He was later hired by the Pottstown Police Department full time. While at Pottstown Police Department, Chieffo worked as an accident reconstructionist, a community policing officer and a certified motor carrier enforcement officer. He also served on the Attorney General Drug Task Force. In addition, Chieffo owns and operates All American Septic Service which serves Berks, Montgomery and Chester counties.

Chieffo said he believes his experience in law enforcement will prove useful if he is elected to the position.

“I have literally been at the front doors of thousands of people’s homes, dealing with domestic and neighbor disputes to emergency service calls for sewage in people’s homes. I’ve seen a variety of situations and have the ability to listen to people,” he explained in the days leading up to the primary. “As a family man, I’m a strong community supporter with a great understanding of people’s needs and concerns. With all my experience, I think I would give a great balance on the bench.”

He added that he also holds the certification necessary to begin working as a Magisterial District Judge on day one.

In order to run for a position as district justice, a candidate must be a local resident for at least one year, be no younger than 21 and no older than 70. Candidates must be a state bar member or complete a training course and pass an exam upon election if they are not a bar member.