Allegheny County arbitrator seeking Lower Valley District Judge seat

Apr. 28—An Allegheny County arbitrator and Aspinwall resident is vying to become the Lower Valley Magisterial District Judge.

Jessica Lynch, a resident of the borough for nearly three decades, works for the county to resolve landlord-tenant cases and other civil issues.

If elected magistrate, she would close her practice and serve full time as judge, Lynch said.

"I am dedicated to serving," Lynch said. "As Magisterial District Judge, my goal is not just to give back, but to be a good steward also.

"Becoming Magisterial District Judge would be the convergence of my passion for community service with my legal training and ability. From my work in Housing Court representing Protection From Abuse (PFA) victims and serving on a criminal justice advisory board to leading Girl Scouts Sunset Camp, wrapping day-old pastries for the homeless and chaperoning mission trips, my aim has always been to help people."

Lynch is among five candidates seeking the Sharpsburg District Justice office. The position was most recently was held by Elissa Lang, who retired last year. Senior judges have been filling the interim role on a rotating basis.

The office along Main Street hears cases that include small claims, traffic violations and some felonies. Judges are elected for six-year terms.

Lynch believes she is the best candidate for the community-oriented job because she said she possesses balance and common sense.

"Sometimes it is by using my legal skills in and out of the courtroom and other times it is by rolling up my sleeves and helping to get the work done in the streets, schools and boardrooms," she said. "The Magisterial District Judge combines this work. I can use my ability as a hardworking lawyer who 'gets' people and my focus on doing the right thing, all in service to my neighbors and community."

Lynch said her combined experience and knowledge in many aspects of the law, as well as her training as a conflict resolution specialist and decision-maker, sets her apart.

"I have an ability to communicate with all people," she said. "Some examples include being an arbitrator for landlord-tenant matters, which will be critical experience once the covid-19 eviction moratorium ends and an overwhelming number of eviction cases proceed."

Other highlights of her resume include representing domestic violence victims with PFA orders and participating in criminal justice advisory boards and prisoner programs.

"I have interacted with all parts of the socioeconomic spectrum, from clerking at the Legal Services Corporation to leading the Executive Women's Council," Lynch said.

"Appearing in court can be time-consuming, stressful and oftentimes unrewarding and unproductive," she said. "Residents of our district deserve a committed judge who will listen effectively and act expeditiously.

"I will ensure that the facts are applied to the law fairly and the parties will be heard in a respectful manner. I will ensure that the courtroom runs smoothly and that matters are handled effectively."

A native of New Jersey, Lynch earned her bachelor's degree from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., and attended the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary. She then went on to earn her MBA Essentials Certificate from the University of Pittsburgh Katz School of Business.

Right out of college, Lynch worked as a paralegal in New York City before graduating law school and joining Eckert Seamans in Pittsburgh. Lynch later worked as a litigator for a national firm handling work at Alcoa and then joined Alcoa's law department as an employment and labor law specialist.

When Alcoa became Arconic, she ventured out on her own and became a Certified Conflict Resolution Specialist and started her own practice specializing in mediation, investigations and workplace training. She also worked for legal aid and became an arbitrator for Allegheny County, which is her current profession.

Lynch is proud of her varied community engagement, which she said stems from her childhood with a mother who was involved in the PTA first as a parent volunteer and later as a teacher when she went back to work.

"As kids, we helped at all of the functions and behind the scenes," she said. "In addition to community interaction through Girl Scouts and recipient of the "First Class Award" (forerunner to the Gold Award), I was a member of service organizations such as Key Club. In Law School, we were indoctrinated to be Citizen Lawyers, which meant public service such as engaging in pro bono work and offering legal clinics, as well as community activity like Habitat for Humanity."

As an adult, Lynch continued her pro bono service by partnering with Neighborhood Legal Services Association. For 28 years, she has volunteered in custody matters representing PFA victims, and more recently, participating as a volunteer advocate in Housing Court. She also joined the Junior League of Pittsburgh, a group dedicated to developing the potential of women, promoting volunteerism and improving the community through effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.

She earned an award for her participation in the Everybody Wins! elementary reading program and continues her work for the Junior League packaging medical supplies for Global Links. She also leads service projects for the Aquinas Guild at St. Scholastica Parish, with particular interest in supporting the efforts of the teen outreach, Vagabond Missionaries, in Sharpsburg.

Lynch is an active member of the Allegheny County Bar Association and the Women in the Law Division, the Mediation Council of Western PA and the Executive Women's Council of Greater Pittsburgh, for which she serves as president. She previously served on the Board of Directors for the Dollar Energy Fund and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Allegheny County.

Lynch said she is committed to ethical decisiveness. In every aspect of her life, Lynch said, she holds true to high ethics, collaborative listening and decisive action.

"I believe my strengths are empathy, self-discipline and high-energy execution," she said. "Others have said I am pragmatic and authentic.

"To bring effective resolution, sometimes sheer hard work is required; at other times, listening, collaborating and an alternate perspective may be the best factors for success. My skills have been put to the test in the legal world as well as the nonprofit sector, helping to solve difficult problems and move the world around us positively forward."

Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tawnya at 724-226-7726, or via Twitter .