Abington Police Deputy Chief John Livingood, speaking to the Abington Board of Commissioners and the audience last week, said that John Walko kept strange hours and was silly enough to give Abington detectives his personal phone number … and that’s part of the reason he was “Abington’s favorite ADA.”
The Abington Police Department honored former Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney John Walko at the March 14 meeting. Walko, an Abington resident, left the district attorney’s office in early March after working there since June 2008.
Though Walko’s a relatively young guy — he graduated from West Virginia University in 2002 and then went on to Villanova law school — the district attorney’s office wasn’t the first stop in his career. In fact, Walko said he took a significant pay cut when he left a private law firm in Blue Bell — one he'd clerked for in law school — to work for the DA.
He said he was just drawn to the job.
“I felt like I wanted to serve the public and I didn’t feel I was doing that at my old job as a lawyer, so I looked at ways of getting involved in the community and that’s one of the reasons I left,” Walko said in an interview yesterday. “I was doing volunteer work with the [Montgomery Child Advocacy Project], attempting to help with their problems. That’s what drew me in — to do justice for the youth.”
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman spoke during the ceremony last week. She said that while lawyers come and go, it was particularly hard to hear that Walko was leaving.
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Walko’s not originally from the area. He grew up in western Pennsylvania but moved to the area to attend school at Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn.
“We wanted to settle down here,” he said. “My wife works in Bryn Athyn and when we started looking for houses, Abington was where we wanted to be.”
It feels like home to him, he said, and that came through when he tried cases locally.
“I enjoyed trying cases that originated out of Abington,” he said. “I had more motivation to do a good job because it’s where I lived. And the relationships that I built made it easier to try those cases. I felt a sense of ownership in those cases.”
Walko said he left the DA’s office to work at the civil litigation firm Pizonka, Reilley, Bello and McGrory out of King of Prussia. There, he’ll be taking on personal injury and criminal defense cases. He said jokingly that his former co-workers at the DA’s office threw some barbs when he said where he was headed.
“Oh sure, they call it the ‘dark side,’ and told them, well … from the DA’s side, there’s no other side to go.”
And his response to being honored for being on that side?
“It was overwhelming,” Walko said. “I didn’t expect such a response. Looking back on it, I didn’t remember what had happened. It was very overwhelming seeing the detectives that I worked with, Risa Ferman and the local judges, as well as my wife and my baby. At the end of the day, it was a capstone as to why I went to the DA. And to be honored … it made me feel like I accomplished goals.”