Mar. 20—Nicole Rosella's interest in the criminal justice system is personal.
When she was a student at Daniel Boone High School, the lifelong Berks County resident saw people she cared about end up behind bars. And while their own actions put them there, she said, incarceration didn't help to address the underlying issues that led to their arrests and convictions.
"I had friends and family members who got themselves in trouble, but they were never really offered any type of opportunity to turn their lives around," she said. "And, from my observation, sending some of them to jail was not the best solution for them. Jail is not the place they were going to get the help they needed to be a successful citizen."
Rosella said that if people had listened to them and offered them different options, maybe the outcome would have been different.
"I want to be that person who helps those people," she said. "And that was why I chose to study criminal justice."
She received a degree in criminal justice from Alvernia University. But she never got a chance to put what she learned into action, instead focusing on motherhood and running a competitive cheer club.
The 39-year-old thinks now is finally the time to return to the criminal justice path. That's why she is running for district judge.
Rosella has announced she's running in the May primary to replace retiring District Judge David Glass. The district covers the southern Berks County communities of Brecknock, Caernarvon, Robeson and Union townships as well as Birdsboro and New Morgan.
District judges issue arrest and search warrants, oversee arraignments, set bail and hold criminal preliminary hearings. They also hear complaints in civil matters, mediate landlord-tenant disputes and perform weddings.
Rosella said she feels well-equipped to succeed Glass, having regularly observed him in the courtroom and getting a chance to talk to him about what he has liked about holding the seat in an effort to make sure it was something she really wanted to do and that it was a good fit for her.
"The biggest lesson I learned from Judge Glass is the importance of having respect for everyone who walked into his courtroom," she said. "It didn't matter if it was a civil case or a criminal case, he gave everyone a chance to tell their side of the story and treated them with the dignity that they deserved."
Rosella said she would run her courtroom the same way.
"The people deserve an independent voice," she said. "They also need someone who can see the issues from many perspectives — not just from a law enforcement perspective. I will carry out the role with compassion while also demanding accountability."
Rosella said she believes her impartiality to the law enforcement community is something that sets her apart from the other candidates running for the post. She will be competing with retired Berks County Deputy Sheriff Mike Kaufman and Caernarvon Township police officer Melissa Seidel-Karpovich in the primary on both the Republican and Democratic ballots.
"Everyone is on an equal playing field with me," she said. "I think that is something that would be appreciated by the people of this community as well as the police officers."
District judges serve six-year terms and have annual salaries of $106,245. The primary is May 16.
Meet the candidate
Candidate: Nicole Rosella, 39, Robeson Township
Position sought: District judge
Background: Rosella is the owner of Twisters Elite Cheer & Tumble in Birdsboro. She has served as a volunteer on the board of Robeson Lutheran Preschool and as an organizer for numerous veterans, first responder and childrens charities in Berks County. She has a degree in criminal justice from Alvernia University.