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Allegheny County Common Pleas judicial candidate Murray touts humble beginnings | TribLIVE.com
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Allegheny County Common Pleas judicial candidate Murray touts humble beginnings

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P.J. Murray of Upper St. Clair is a candidate for Allegheny Common Pleas judge. He practiced law for the past 22 years, specializing in civil litigation in the areas of employment, construction, banking and general business law.
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Barbara Behrend Ernsberger is a candidate for Allegheny County Common Pleas judge. Ernsberger has been in private practice for more than 30 years, and has worked on cases in civil, family and orphan's court.

P.J. Murray has an affinity for the underdog.

He cites a childhood in Penn Hills in which he had to “claw and scratch for everything” as one reason for relating more to the smaller guy in any fight.

“I came from a broken home. I didn’t know anybody when I went to law school. I didn’t have powerful friends,” said Murray, 51, of Upper St. Clair, one of 13 candidates for Allegheny County judge. “I’m a self-made person.”

During nearly 23 years as a lawyer, Murray has spent much of his time representing small- to medium-sized businesses in commercial and employment litigation. He’s most proud of a case he actually lost, when he represented former Steelers guard Steve Courson in his fight for more benefits from the NFL while seeking a heart transplant.

“I worked hard for a client that was desperate,” Murray told the Tribune-Review. “I knew it would be an uphill climb.”

Murray exudes a quiet demeanor he says he developed growing up in a house with a lot of commotion. He listed simple traits of a good judge: Be prepared, know the law and be respectful.

He cites service to his community and to his profession as his driving forces. He volunteers to coach youth sports in Upper St. Clair and serves on the board of The Fralic Foundation in support of Penn Hills youth sports.

“Those who can give back to the profession should,” he said of his run for judge. “I turned 50 and started to reflect on what I’ve done. I need to crank it up.”

On the issues:

What’s the top issue facing the court? “Each time you appear in front of a judge (in civil court) … you might have to reiterate the case because someone else heard the last motion.”

How do you keep political donations by lawyers from affecting decisions from the bench? “I insulate that list. And my integrity means more to me than anything else.”

Should judges hire family members? “I don’t think it’s a great practice. To me, it’s all about qualifications.”

David Conti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5802 or [email protected].

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