Joseph Cincotta. Courtesy photo

Former Gibbons P.C. attorney Joseph Cincotta became president of the Philadelphia Association of Defense Counsel this summer, and has since been working to raise the civil defense advocacy group’s profile throughout the courts and broader community.

Cincotta began his career clerking for Philadelphia Judge James Stern before spending five years in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office beginning in 1980. He stopped practicing in late 2015 after spending more than 30 years handling a variety of cases, including toxic torts and commercial litigation.

The Legal spoke with Cincotta about what he’s hoping to accomplish during his term, which coincides with the PADC’s 70th anniversary.

The following has been edited for clarity, space and flow.

Q: What have you been doing since taking over as president?

A: The summer tends to be slower, but we tended to do a lot of planning. We start our monthly CLE on Tuesday, so we’ve been planning those.

We’ve had some meetings. We had a dinner with the executive committee, and the program committee. There’s a new committee of pro bono community services. We prepared and served dinner where between 12 and 17 PADC volunteers went to Ronald McDonald House in West Philadelphia and fed 50 or so family members of children being cared for at the hospital.

So the summer’s been busier than usual.

Q: Are there new programs you are working on?

A: A big part of what we do is education too. I’ve also been reaching out about that.

We’ve reached out to the court, and we have Dispute Resolution Center manager Peter Divon and Judge Idee Fox, they’re going to be talking about the judge pro temp program to see what we can do to keep things moving.

I’ve been in touch with Philadelphia Jury Commissioner Dan Rendine and immediate past PADC president David Wolf about an initiative trying to get jurors to participate, to try to see how we can get more people to respond to jury summonses and serve.

We’ve been trying to reach out to the court, and reach out to the members to get them going, and also to start reaching out to some nonmembers to tell them about the value of our organization.

Q: What do you plan to focus on during your tenure?

A: My goals are to make sure we keep the organization going. We have three new committees and five other standing committees. My goal is to help them with their agendas, and to help get things done, and really to make sure we’re doing our best to promote the long-term health of our organization.

We’re trying to do an outreach program where we’re reaching out to members to see if the organization is doing what they want it to do, or if they have any suggestions for CLE programs, or other activities. One thing the group has always been good about is sharing ideas.

We’ve got our pro bono committee with Harriet Anderson and Rebecca Grausam. They did the book drive at our annual meeting were we got three dozen books so that 90 kids could have something to read over the summer. We’re reaching out to the community, and partnering with the Rendell Center. The schools are doing literature-based mock trials for young kids to get involved.

Jason Poore at White and Williams, who’s our young lawyer representative, has been active in youth court for many years. He’s just starting on the executive committee. For the schools that choose to do that program, students with minor infractions volunteer to have these infractions adjudicated by students. There’s a student advocate who’s like a defense attorney, 10 or 15 kids who are jurors, they get to ask questions, they figure out the facts, and then they get to make recommendations. It doesn’t go on the kid’s permanent record, and it helps with the other kids’ leadership skills.

We’re going to start that for our group that’s working with Jason this fall, and we’re hoping to get our people involved in that.

We’re also trying to reach out to the city to see how we can best serve on the MLK Day of service.

Q: Are there any legislative issues on the horizon?

A: We’re always interested in the proposed tax on legal services, merit selection of judges, the Fairness in Claims and Transparency Act in the asbestos litigation. We’ve been monitoring that, but I don’t see anything new in that area.

Q: How does no longer practicing affect your role as president?

A: I’ve kept current with my licenses in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, but it gives you a little more time to devote to it.