After serving nearly a dozen years as a district magistrate, D. Neil McEwen is eyeing a new role in the local judicial system.
McEwen has announced his candidacy for Mercer County Court of Common Pleas judge. He will be cross-filing as a Republican and Democrat in the spring primary.
He currently serves as the judge for District 3-2, which is part of the 35th Judicial District. The office is located in Pine Township, and he’s held the position for 11½ years.
McEwen, who lives in Grove City with his wife Kristi and their sons Connor and Cael, had been interested in Common Pleas Court during previous elections but said the timing didn’t seem right.
After this school year, both of his children will be in college, giving him a better opportunity to handle the workload that comes with the job, he said on Monday.
The Common Pleas Court opening on the May 18 ballot comes from the upcoming retirement of President Judge Robert G. Yeatts, who has said he will not seek another 10-year term.
McEwen believes that his time on the bench has given him a unique temperament when it comes to judicial proceedings, which he said is important for any case being heard in a courtroom.
He is confident that he can continue to serve Mercer County in a fair and equitable manner.
District magistrates are the first stop for cases going through the court system. Judges like McEwen oversee traffic and non-traffic citations, certain civil actions and misdemeanors, and criminal cases.
In some of those instances, he must decide if the case should be heard at the Common Pleas level.
His jurisdiction covers the townships of Deer Creek, French Creek, Jackson, Lake, Liberty, Mill Creek, New Vernon, Pine, Sandy Lake, Wolf Creek and Worth; and the boroughs of Grove City, Jackson Center, New Lebanon, Sandy Lake and Stoneboro.
McEwen enjoys serving the Grove City area, and he is ready for the next step in his career.
He noted that his experienced staff has been one of the most critical elements to him being able to focus on his courtroom and his work.
They’ve also been a big help this past year, handling COVID-19 pandemic procedures that caused quite a backlog of cases waiting to be heard.
“It created quite a scheduling challenge,” McEwen said.
He thanked his family and friends for their support of his decision to run for Common Pleas Court judge.
McEwen is a Grove City High School graduate and he received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh, where he majored in behavioral neuroscience, and he earned his juris doctorate from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Mich.
His legal experience spans more than 25 years, starting as a private attorney. He has also worked for the Mercer County Public Defender’s Office and an assistant with the Mercer County District Attorney’s Office, prosecuting all types of cases.
He partnered with James Epstein, former district attorney for Mercer County, as a homicide prosecution team.
McEwen also spent six years as the designated advocate to prosecute sex offenders, and he serves on the Courthouse Security Committee - an appointment made by Yeatts.
He has lived in Grove City since early childhood. His parents are from Mercer.
It’s a been a wonderful place to grow up and raise a family, and he can’t see himself ever leaving Mercer County.
“They say it takes a village to raise an individual. People here understand what that means,” McEwen said.
He previously served as a board member of the Grove City YMCA, and he belongs to East Main Presbyterian Church, Grove City.
He teaches one criminal justice course a semester at Slippery Rock University.
“That’s something that I really enjoy,” he said.
He also spends time riding mountain and road bicycles, walking in the woods and following his sons’ activities. He’s also a private pilot.