When Kat Copeland was 6 years old, her family moved to Iran, her mother’s homeland. They lived there happily until the Iranian Revolution toppled the Shah in 1979. The Islamic Republic arrested her American dad, Max Copeland, accusing him of being a CIA agent.
But her mother, Shahin Maleki Copeland, who was trained as a linguist, not a lawyer, decided to fight for her father’s freedom, Copeland said.
With no legal training, her mother represented her father as the first woman in the Islamic Republic of Iran to argue a court case, citing verses from the Koran, and won his freedom.
“My mother, and what a mother, defended my father and fought valiantly for his release,” said Copeland. “Securing it just a short time before President Ronald Reagan successfully negotiated the release of our American hostages.”
The Copeland family then returned to the U.S. But that experience planted a seed within Copeland. She knew she wanted to become a lawyer and fight for justice.
“This period of time in my life truly shaped my appreciation for the rights and freedoms we hold dear in our country,” said Copeland. “The freedom of speech. The freedom of religion. The right to privacy. Due process.”
Flash forward to last Monday, and Copeland, 56, of Radnor, who has spent 30 years in the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office, including as DA, or in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, announced she is now running for Pennsylvania Attorney General.
“I have dedicated my life and 30-year career to defending the constitution and the rights of individuals,” said Copeland. “It is this very passion for justice that has led me to this.”
“The attorney general is the state’s chief legal and law enforcement officer,” said Copeland. “The attorney general has the duty to protect and defend both the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions, the laws of Pennsylvania. And the interest and safety of the people of our commonwealth.”
“To be an effective attorney general, you need to be both a good lawyer and a good manager,” said Copeland. “It is a job where experience truly counts.”
Copeland touted her wide range of experience prosecuting cases at the county and federal levels.
“I have the most legal and law enforcement experience of any candidate,” said Copeland. As an assistant DA, she handled cases from theft to murder and rape. In 2018, the Board of Judges appointed her as the Delaware County DA, but she lost when she ran for the position against District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer in 2019. She was the first woman to run the county’s drug task force and spearheaded the drug treatment and veterans’ courts. She was also the first leader of Delaware County’s criminal terrorism unit.
In the U.S. Attorney’s Office, she led investigations and prosecutions against terrorists, cybercriminals, human traffickers, international drug traffickers, and other violent criminals, she said. She was chief of the criminal division for the Easter District of Pennsylvania, with a staff of 300 and encompassing nine counties.
As attorney general, Copeland promised “zero tolerance” for those who sell opioids and fentanyl.
As the daughter of a 92-year-old mother, she said she would protect seniors from abuse, neglect, and fraud. She would also protect children and families from child pornographers and would ensure schools are safe.
“Unlike previous attorneys general, I will stand up to Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner,” said Copeland, “and prosecute drug crimes and trafficking in Philadelphia.”
“The last 12 years, this office has been used for partisan political gain,” she said, “and to settle personal and political vendettas. The last 10 years, the office has worked lockstep for the governor’s office, allowing government to overreach and disrupt so many lives.”
“When I am attorney general, this will end,” said Copeland. “The office will once again become the independent office it was created to be.”
Asked by DVJournal what she meant by her criticism of the former attorneys general, Copeland said, “I’ll keep talking about it during the course of the campaign, but that’s all I’m saying today.”
York County District Attorney David Sunday is also running for the Republican nomination and recently received an endorsement from the Republican Attorney Generals Association.
Asked if she was worried about that, Copeland said, “I’m not concerned.”
“I have proven that I have the ability to raise the money necessary to run for Pennsylvania attorney general,” Copeland told DVJournal.
In addition to Sunday, state Rep. Craig Williams may be running for attorney general on the Republican side.
For the Democratic nomination, former Bucks County solicitor Joe Kahn, former Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, and former Philadelphia Public Defender Keir Bradford-Grey are running. Stollsteimer, who was just reelected Delaware County district attorney, is also expected to run.