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Judge of the Montco Court of Common Pleas Election 2011

This November, voters will elect two of four candidates to 10-year terms on the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. Overviews of the candidates’ careers and credentials are below.

What is the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas? Check out this description, from

The Courts of Common Pleas are the trial courts of Pennsylvania. Major civil and criminal cases are heard in these courts. Judges also decide cases involving adoption, divorce, child custody, abuse, juvenile delinquency, estates, guardianships, charitable organizations and many other matters.

To visit the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas’ website, click here.

Note: Sources for the information are in parentheses. Where no source is indicated, the information was pulled from the candidates’ own website.

For Austin’s website, click here.
For Clifford’s website, click here.
For Coggins’ website, click here.
For Haaz’s website, click here.

- Cheryl Austin

  • Capital University Law School, JD (
  • Northwestern University School of Speech, BA in Speech (
  • University of Cincinnati, AD in Computer Systems (
  • Navy Captain in the U.S. Navy
  • Assistant District Attorney in Montgomery County
  • Assistant County Solicitor
  • Staff Attorney for Ohio Supreme Court
  • Public Affairs Officer at the Pentagon
  • Public School Administrator
    • Specialized in labor relations
  • Served on the Cable Television Advisory Board in her home municipality
  • Chaired the Cincinnati Women’s Political Caucus
  • Human Resources Director for the Ohio Secretary of State
  • “[F]ounding member of the C.A.L.M. (Committed Activists Leading Many) Society, devoted to bridging the achievement gap of African-American students in the Abington, PA school district.”
  • “[W]as a volunteer mediator in a community program designed to reduce a municipal court case backlog”
  • “[A]warded a Public Interest Law Fellowship that funded a six-week internship with the South Florida Poverty Law Center in Miami, where she assisted Haitian refugees seeking asylum.”
  • Chair, Montgomery County Commission on Women and Families
  • Chair, Diversity Committee of the Montgomery County Bar Association
  • Board member of the Willow Grove, PA NAACP chapter
  • Trustee of the Montgomery County Community College
    • Chairs the Curriculum Committee
  • “[N]amed a “Rising Star” among Elder Law attorneys by Philadelphia Magazine” (
  • Recommendations/Endorsements:
    • “Recommended” by the Montgomery Bar Association (PhillyBurbs)

- Dan Clifford

  • 1984 University of Baltimore School of Law Graduate, JD
  • 1981 Indiana University of PA Graduate, BA
  • Law Clerk, Governor’s Office of General Counsel
  • Norristown Attorney (25 years)
  • Chair, Springfield Township Zoning Hearing Board (14 years)
  • PA and Montgomery County Bar Association Leader
  • Child Custody, Adoption and Diversity Advocate
  • Partner, Weber Gallagher Simpson Stapleton Fires & Newby LLP
  • Director, Adoptions From the Heart Board of Directors
  • Member, Advisory Board, Office of Children and Youth
  • Board of Directors, Equality Forum
  • Authored various scholarly articles (for list, click here)
  • Believes the Family Court system should be more “user-friendly” and responsive
  • “[I]nitiate a case management system on assigned cases—taking control of the cases from the very beginning, being “pro-active” on resolution of issues and ensuring cases move through the system expeditiously.”
  • “[O]rganize a “Custody Action Team” of Family Court Judges to step in immediately to hear those cases where the children are being withheld from the other parent or otherwise being used as bargaining chips in the early days of a party’s divorce.”
  • “[I]mplement a Family Court Motion Court where issues of emergent nature, which require a “referee” to step in quickly, will be heard bi-weekly instead of waiting 6-8 weeks under the current system.”
  • “[M]andate a training program” for attorneys and judges on custody issues “where proven techniques and training are provided to ensure the welfare of the child.”
  • “[I]mplement a “Kids First Program” for children going through the custody process for the first time. A Judge, lawyer and therapist will meet with the children in a seminar setting, in the Courtroom, to explain the process and answer questions in an effort to ease their discomfort.”
  • For a list of awards, click here.
  • Recommendations/Endorsements:
    • “Highly Recommended” by the Montgomery Bar Association (PhillyBurbs)

- Maureen Coggins

  • Widener University School of Law (SmartVoter)
  • Franklin and Marshall College, BS (SmartVoter)
  • Prosecutor, Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office (8 years)
    • Chief of Special Prosecutions Unit
    • Chief of the Major Crimes Unit
  • Special Prosecutor for the PA SPCA
  • Montgomery County Deputy Solicitor
  • Chief Public Defender of Lehigh County
  • Child Advocate for Montgomery County’s Child Advocacy program
  • Advocate for the mentally ill
  • “[H]elped develop and oversee a county task force geared toward the revitalization of Norristown.” (TheReporterOnline)
  • Associate with Black and Gerngross (TheReporterOnline)
  • Recommendations/Endorsements:
    • “Recommended” by the Montgomery County Bar Association Committee on the Judiciary
    • Endorsed by PA State Policy Lodge 37
    • Endorsed by Lower Merion FOP Lodge 28
    • Endorsed by Norristown FOP Lodge 31
    • Endorsed by PA Narcotic Officers’ Association
    • Endorsed by County Detectives’ Association of PA

- Richard Haaz

  • 1975 Graduate of Penn State (with honors)
  • 1978 Graduate of University of New Hampshire School of Law
  • Hearing Committee Chairman, Disciplinary Board of the PA Supreme Court
  • Trial Lawyer (over 32 years)
  • “[I]mprove the system of managing cases so that they are efficiently supervised and brought to trial far more quickly.”
  • Named as a 2011 Pennsylvania “Super Lawyer”
  • Big Brothers/Big Sisters Solicitor and Board Member
  • Lecturer for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute
  • Montgomery County Office of Children and Youth Citizens Advisory Committee
  • Judicial Law Clerk at the Court of Common Pleas
  • Recommendations/Endorsements:
    • “Highly Recommended” by the Montgomery County Bar Association (PhillyBurbs)
    • Endorsed by the Southeastern PA National Organization for Women
    • Endorsed by UFCW Local 1776