Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, a Democrat seeking a second term, faces a strong challenger in Republican Beth Stefanide-Miscichowski.
Earlier in their careers, Stefanide-Miscichowski worked with Stollsteimer in the DA’s office before he left for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. During her eight-year tenure at the DA’s Office, she served in both the pre-trial and trial divisions of the office. Her work included handling misdemeanor and felony cases, including multiple homicides. She led the Trial Team of the office’s juvenile division before going into private practice once she started her family.
“I’m local,” said Stefanide-Miscichowski. “Born and bred in Delaware County. My dad owned a business in the city of Chester almost his entire career.”
She said that her parents, John and Patricia Stefanide, owned the woodworking business and were very active in the community.
Her interest in the law was piqued at Villanova University, where she had former Assistant DA Dennis McAndrews as an adjunct professor. McAndrews, who is perhaps best known for prosecuting John du Pont, who killed Olympic gold medal wrestler Dave Schultz, talked about the cases he prosecuted and whetted her appetite for working as a prosecutor. She went on to earn her law degree from Widener University School of Law.
When asked why he is seeking a second term, Stellsteimer pointed to his accomplishments in office.
He said that he “reduced the homicide rate in Chester by 60 percent and the overall gun violence incidents by 46 percent through Chester Partnership for Safe Neighborhoods, a “collaborative community-based strategy.”
He successfully sued opioid distributors.
“Because of my litigation, Delaware County will receive millions of dollars to invest in people and programs to help our residents who suffer from substance abuse disorders,” said Stollsteimer.
He also formed a Child Abuse and Exploitation Task Force to focus on highly trained municipal police officers to protect children. He was also the first Pennsylvania DA to successfully prosecute a contractor for wage theft in conjunction with then-Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
Stollsteimer also helped spearhead a 30 percent reduction in the prison population in Delaware County through new diversionary programs.
And “on Day One of my administration, I formed an Environmental Crimes Unit, the first in a DA’s office anywhere in Pennsylvania. My team collaborated with Attorney General Shapiro’s staff in a successful joint criminal prosecution of Energy Transfer, Inc. for the environmental damage caused by the Mariner 2 pipeline; and brought civil litigation against multinational chemical companies on behalf of our community of first responders exposed to harm from ‘forever chemicals,’” he said.
(However, Energy Transfer pleaded no contest with no admission of guilt. The company provided $10 million to clean up any water problems as part of an agreement.)
Stefanide-Miscichowski said, “Whether it be during my many years working in the Delaware County District Attorney’s office or now with my own Elder Law and Estate Planning Practice, public service has always been of the utmost importance to me. Being a voice for victims and having the opportunity to champion their rights and rectify wrongs in my career has made me an experienced, fair, and honest attorney. It is why I am proud to be running for Delaware County District Attorney.”
In law school, Stefanide-Miscichowski worked for two different presiding judges. Everyone told her not to go into the DA’s office, but she did anyway.
“I’m really passionate about it,” she said. “And then, when I started working with these people who I so admired, in 1995, when I became an assistant district attorney, I went to all the District Courts in Delaware County” to hand preliminary stages of cases. “Everything from rapes, robberies…I saw the police officers in action.” Once she passed the bar, she was offered jobs in various District Attorney’s Offices but wanted to stay in her home county.
She said she learned a lot from (former DA) Kat Copeland.
“She taught me a lot about jury trials and bench (judge only) trials and being fair and honest and striking the right balance to get justice. It isn’t about winning and losing. It’s about justice. The job is about justice. People don’t always appreciate that.”
Stollsteimer worked his way through college, graduating at age 34. He joined the DA’s Office as an intern while studying law at Temple University. He was recruited to the Safe Neighborhoods program at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He became an Assistant U.S. Attorney in 2004, working to stop violence in North Philadelphia, earning a 100 percent conviction rate.
In 2006, former Gov. Ed Rendell appointed Stollsteimer as the state’s Safe Schools Advocate for Philadelphia. In that job, he reported the district’s failure to report violent crimes, which led to policy changes. He then worked as a deputy State Treasurer for consumer programs.
Stollsteimer lives in Havertown with his wife and two children.
Stefanide-Miscichowski said one of her most prominent cases involved two college students who had been drinking heavily at a bar in Conshohocken. On the way home, the driver struck a box truck, killing his friend, the passenger.
“He died on Lancaster Avenue, bleeding out, on the ground,” she said. She said the drunk driver was convicted of DUI and homicide by vehicle. “The trial was pretty salacious.”
But later, while in prison, he turned his life around and got a law degree.
“So by prosecuting him, and I took him down screaming and gnashing his teeth…He became aware his behavior was completely inappropriate,” she said. “It was such a success story in a surprising way.”
While she has been practicing law in the Orphan’s Court arena for 15 years, Stefanide-Miscichowski said she handles cases there that help “very vulnerable people” with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease who are being exploited. “It’s a different kind of public safety,” she said. “I have a soft spot for those less fortunate and people who can’t speak out for themselves.”
But crime in the area has become so much of a problem that she’s running for DA to stop it.
“Even (Congresswoman) Mary Gay Scanlon was carjacked,” she said. “I have three kids who live in this community. I’m passionate about public safety, and crime is out of control.”
And if criminals feel they won’t be prosecuted, “they’re just going to become bolder and bolder.”