Koury becomes Northampton County’s 27th president judge
Michael J. Koury Jr. was sworn in as the 27th president judge of Northampton County June 18.
He decided to become a lawyer, and then judge, after hearing his father’s stories of past courtroom exploits.
The courtroom was full with members of Easton’s proud Lebanese community and the entire Northampton County bench.
The jury box was filled with visiting judges who included Superior Court President Judge Susan Gatman, along with Superior Court Judge Jack Panella, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert “Robin” Simpson, Federal District Court jurists Ed Smith and Jay Leeson and former Judge Emil Giordano. County Executive Lamont McClure, District Attorney John Morganelli and Chief Public Defender Nuria DiLuzio, along with former County Executive Gerald E. “Jerry” Seyfried and county council members Ron Heckman and Lori Vargo Heffner, were just some of those who paid their respects.
As prestigious as this group might be, the seats of honor were saved for Koury’s family. His wife, Elaine, was flanked on one side by their son, Michael, and on the other by daughters, Josie and Rebecca. Seated at the same table was Koury’s mother, Josie, who owns Josie’s Deli. Anthony, Michael’s uncle, who is also a deacon at Our Lady of Lebanon, served as court crier.
The one family member missing was Michael’s father, “Big Mike” Koury, who at one time was a popular magistrate in Wilson Borough, known for his common sense, humility and the courtesy with which he treated everyone. Attorney Dan Cohen spoke fondly of his fairness. After his father died, Koury Jr. decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a judge.
He waged a rare successful write-in campaign and was first elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 2009. His selection as president judge after just nine years on the bench is an indication of the high regard in which he is held by his fellow jurists.
Outgoing President Judge Stephen Baratta handed Koury a copy of a book that has been handed down from president judge to president judge since the days of Judge Alfred T. Williams, a copy of Niccolò Machiavelli’s “The Prince.”
This book espouses the principle that the end justifies the means and even goes so far as to profess that a prince should keep his word only when it suits his purposes. Baratta said he tried using these principles around his own household and found himself on the couch for a week.
Koury said he’d work by consensus among fellow jurists and would follow the teachings of another Mediterranean scholar, Socrates. According to this ancient philosopher, a judge has four duties: (1) to hear courteously; (2) to answer wisely; (3) to consider soberly; and (4) to decide impartially.
Koury singled out several members of his family who have had a big influence on him while growing up. He finished by acknowledging Easton Attorney George Baurkot, a pillar of the Lebanese community, as his mentor.
An honor guard of Northampton County Corrections officers, including a bagpiper, presented the colors. Melina Heffner, a student at Saucon Valley High School, sang the national anthem and “God Bless America.” The Most Rev. Alfred A Schlert, bishop of the Diocese of Allentown, delivered the invocation and benediction.
Immediately after the induction ceremony, everyone was invited to Our Lady of Lebanon for a reception and Lebanese food.