Strong passions — pro and con — surround Donze’s run for District Justice

Pin It

By Mike McGann, Editor, the Times

Jane Donze

Jane Donze suggests that she isn’t entirely sure why she seems to invoke deep passion — both positive and negative — in her run for District Justice in 15-3-04, the Unionville and Kennett areas, but since the primary, she’s been both the recipient of enthusiastic support across the political spectrum as well as the target of criticism — again, across the political spectrum.

While some of it may spring from a bruising Republican primary — one of her primary opponents, Sean Rafferty, said he was so offended by her alleged conduct this past spring that he is currently supporting Democrat Al Iacocca in the race — some local political observers here have cast her in the mold of a local version of Hillary Clinton, another polarizing political figure, noting that those who know her well, like her, and many of those who do not know her as well or some she has rubbed the wrong way, dislike her.

As a result of one of the more contentious District Justice races in the county in recent memory, public views of her, positive and negative, seem to have hardened in recent weeks — although Donze said she feels her critics are a minority of those in the community.

“I think we’re living in a very politically divisive world right now,” she said. “I have support from Democrats, independents and Republicans. I’m not really sure about all of the divisiveness, where it pertains to me. I know I’ve knocked on 4,000 doors and I’ve had a lot of different conversations with people. I believe, one of my opponents in particular in the Republican primary was not happy with me — he lost. I feel that the voters had an opportunity to review my credentials and baed on my body of work in the community, and as an attorney I got 42% of the vote in the Republican primary and came in second in the Democratic primary.” 

Although there has been much finger pointing — largely by those who oppose her, such a Rafferty — she made it clear that she’s not interested in talking about those claims, specifically declining to engage on any of them, but instead said she is focusing on her community involvement and lengthy legal experience. True, too, others who know her well, describe her as a “straight shooter” who often says what others are thinking but are too afraid to say themselves, which she admits can rub people the wrong way.

The result is a complicated image of a woman — a long-time East Marlborough resident, mother of two Unionville High School grads, a volunteer with various local civic organizations, and the co-owner of a Willowdale law practice (with her husband George) for nearly two decades — she’s outspoken, passionate and deeply convinced that she’s the best choice to be the area’s next District Justice.

Although a novice when it comes to politics, she feels her experience in the legal profession makes her the best choice.

“I’ve never been in a political race before,” she said. “So, this is all new territory for me. I believe this is an incredibly important job. I know that because I’ve handled thousands of cases in district courts in six different counties. My business has been largely Chester County but I’ve been hired to do work in six surrounding counties. I have seen people’s live change as a result of what happens in that small court. So, I believe it’s a very, very important job.”

The District Justice, she notes, can make all the difference, how he or she runs a courtroom, dispenses justice and works in the community.

“I have seen judges who do it well and I’ve seen judges who do not do it well,” she said. “It can have a profound impact on the individuals involved and the community as a whole.”

She speaks with clarity about what type of District Justice she hopes to be.

“I believe the job requires the judge to apply the law to the facts,” she said. “You need to keep your personal bias out of it. because when you bring that into the courtroom, you have three lawyers in the courtroom instead of two. The judge then becomes the third lawyer. At the end of the day, there’s two sides to every story, so you need to listen to the facts, take the law and apply it to those facts.”

While she touts her community involvement — but acknowledges her opponent also is deeply involved in the community — she focuses on her extensive legal experience, which she cites as being far superior and crucial to being a good District Justice.

“I think people can look at my body of work, as an attorney, who has practiced for 30 years,” she said, “my involvement with non-profits, having raised my children in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, having owned a business for 20 years in the Unionville/Kennett Square area, I think that speaks to who I am and that’s up to the voters to decide.”

Her record stands for itself, she said, noting her involvement with groups such as The Garage, and that she has long focused on the young people of the area, citing her nearly 25 years of focus on juvenile law in her practice.

Donze has served on a volunteer basis with a number of local organizations, including on the board of the Domestic Abuse Project, where she worked to help victims of – and prevent – domestic and child abuse. She is a current member of the East Marlborough Township Planning Commission

She also volunteers with like La Comunidad Hispana, the Garage in Kennett Square – which helps at-risk youth – and is a board member of the Chester County Art Association.  

She has also donated her time to the Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce, the Chester County Bar Association, Unionville Recreation Association Baseball among other organizations in the area.

A graduate of Boston University and the Widener School of Law, she is admitted to practice law before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the Unites States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and the United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.  She is a Certified Mediator and an appointed Arbitrator in both Chester and Delaware County Courts of Common Pleas.

PDF24    Send article as PDF   

Share this post:

Related Posts


  1. Hayden says:

    The majority of district court judges are not attorney’s. It looks like most of the attorney’s who want to become DJ’s do so because they can’t hang in private practice. This lady appears to be trying way to hard for a job that is a big step down from what an average attorney does for a living. Many of our DJ’s only have a high school diploma.

  2. Michael says:

    I find it peculiar that on February 22, 2016, the republican party conducted interviews for the open district judge seat, and Ms. Donze lost the interim appointment for the MDJ position to Mr. Rafferty, who had received just over 80% of the committee chair votes. If you go on to the PA State Campaign Finance homepage;, you will see that Ms. Donze donated $1500 to the Republican Party of Chester County on 2-29-16, just 7 days after she lost the appointment for the interim term. Why did the appointment come to a halt after Donze’s $1500 donation, and the seat has been vacant for almost 2 years? What happened with the Chesco Republican Party and Jane Donze? Very interesting to say the least. I hope the voters learn the truth before November 7.

  3. Eve says:

    I am curious as to if Ms. Donze can provide more specifics as to her 25 years of focusing on Juvenile Law? What aspect of Juvenile Law and in what jurisdiction did she practice? How many cases has she handled? Were they delinquency or dependency focused? I think this is an important aspect of the job and would like more information from the candidate.

Leave a Comment