mulberry bags Cyber Monday New Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell plans for the future
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Mark Powell’s long frame leans over the polished table in the dimly lit conference room of his Scranton law firm’s Linden Street office.
His grandfather’s battered law books fill part of the wooden shelves that line the walls of the “war room” where he and his fellow attorneys meet and prepare cases.
Earlier this week, nearly one month to the day after Lackawanna County voters elected him the first Democratic district attorney in decades, Powell, 53, sat down in the war room to discuss battle plans for his new position.
“We’re going to increase the professionalism from the top down,” said Powell, of Moosic. “Try the right cases and be prepared to try all cases.”
Since his win, Powell has met with current and former prosecutors on a national, state and local level. He’s “listening and learning” for now, he said. He does not believe that, so far, he has heard anything that he did not know before.
“But, it certainly has provided me with greater confidence in what I know,” he said.
Much of what he discussed, general plans to mentor and develop the skills of young attorneys and a vision of strengthening the office’s trial readiness, echoes his campaign sentiment. He said those in the district attorney’s office should be prepared to “work hard.”
he has a shortlist for who will be his first assistant district attorney but did not disclose who is on it. Staffing decisions are pending formal interviews with current staff and changes to the office likely will come after weeks of observation following his Jan. 2 swearing in.
Powell will inherit several high profile cases as a newly minted prosecutor, including the murder trial of former Carbondale police officer Francis Schulze, 27, whose case is on hold while an appeal of a judge’s ruling is pending before the state Superior Court.
To prepare for his new role, Powell has been working with sitting District Attorney Shane Scanlon.
“I’d like it to be seamless,” Scanlon said.
Powell maintains that he will “absolutely” try cases and “lead from the front” as a hands on district attorney. Ernie Preate, a former district attorney whose courtroom appearances drew crowds, said Powell is a capable attorney who “knows how to try a case” and trying cases as district attorney is “what you have to do.”
“The public elected you to be their champion in the courtroom,” Preate said.
District attorneys serve four year terms and make $175,573 a year.
Powell is a 27 year defense attorney and civil litigator board certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy as a criminal trial and civil trial specialist, bona fides few attorneys can claim. Powell and his wife, Donna, have been married for 26 years and have four children.
His opponent in the November election, former longtime assistant district attorney Gene Talerico, attempted to make political hay out of it. Talerico, 50, was former District Attorney Andy Jarbola’s first assistant for 16 years, and is well known in the law enforcement community.
Powell will have to build a rapport with the area’s law enforcement agencies. He said he plans to sit down with local police chiefs and with representatives of the state police to share his plans and establish an open line of communication.
Scranton Police Chief Carl Graziano said his department has always had a strong professional relationship with the district attorney and hopes it continues and improves.
“We work hand in hand and we’re partners in criminal justice here and we’re going to take it case by case and work together,
” Graziano said. “I’m just looking forward to working together.”