SLIPPERY ROCK – A second candidate has announced his bid for the magisterial district judge office based in Slippery Rock.
Russ Karl, of Slippery Rock, recently retired from the Butler County District Attorney’s Office, where he was an assistant district attorney for 16 years.
Also in the running: local attorney Joe Nash of Mercer Township, and Jeff Steele of Slippery Rock.
Karl is cross-filing on the Democratic and Republican tickets for the seat now held by District Judge William S. O’Donnell, who is retiring.
The office of magisterial district justice 50-3-01, which is a six-year term, serves the boroughs of Slippery Rock, Portersville, Prospect, West Liberty and Harrisville, and the townships of Slippery Rock, Worth, Brady, Franklin, Mercer and Muddy Creek.
Karl is from Erie and moved to Slippery Rock about 20 years ago. He and his wife Laurie have eight children and 12 grandchildren.
He has 32 years of experience working in the legal system, which he feels would make him a good fit for district judge.
He graduated in 1985 from Edinboro University with a psychology degree, and in 1989 with a juris doctor degree from Ohio Northern University, followed by the start of his career as a private attorney.
“Since third grade, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer,” Karl said, adding that he loved watching “Perry Mason.”
He enjoys working with people and the whole system of making sure their rights are protected. He also vows to treat everyone fairly.
Serving as a district judge also plays an important in keeping the community safe.
“It’s a real balance in the judicial system,” Karl said.
Before becoming an assistant district attorney, he was a public defender for two years for Butler County; he’s seen both sides of the court system.
He also ran the county’s adult and juvenile probation programs and Children and Youth Services, which would be helpful when it comes to running a judge’s office, he said.
In addition to presiding over court cases, a district judge is tasked with running the office itself. That includes budgeting, personnel and other behind-the-scenes work.
Karl has spent a lot of time in courtrooms and judge’s offices, so he’s familiar with the operations and the people who come and go.
The Slippery Rock judge’s office often deals with Slippery Rock University students; up to 10,000 of them come through the office each year, Karl said.
SRU has students from all over the world, and many of them are not familiar with the local court system. Karl would work with them on understanding what’s happening with their case.
“Every kid that makes a mistake isn’t a mistake,” he said.
He’s prepared to take on the time commitment that comes with the job. District judges take turns being on call, and it’s not a 9-to-5 role.
Karl has already taken the test that certifies an individual to serve as district judge, and he has the full support of his family and friends plus the three district judges who ran the court before O’Donnell: Tim Shaffer, Clifford Woessner and Pete Watson.
Karl ran for the Slippery Rock district judge post about 10 years ago against Shaffer, who was elected.
Karl loves living in the Slippery Rock area. He is in his fourth year on Slippery Rock borough council, and he serves as president. His term expires Dec. 31.
He and his wife enjoy kayaking, biking, walking and riding his motorcycle, and watching his kids and grandkids grow have given him good experiences with all ages.
He belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Slippery Rock, where he is the branch president, and he’s a member of Brady Paul F.O.P Memorial Lodge 54 and the Butler County Law Enforcement Officers Association.
Karl led the county’s Adopt-A-School program, coached youth basketball and soccer, and served on the Boy Scouts Council while his sons were scouts.