2012-03-08 / Front Page

No Changes Proposed For District Judge Boundaries

Public to comment on Fulton, Franklin County Magisterial District re-establishment repor t
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

The public will have 30 days to comment on a recently released Magisterial District Re-establishment Report, which, if approved, will not result in any change to the boundaries and coverage areas overseen by the county’s three district judges.

Released Wednesday, February 29, by Mark Singer, district court administrator for the 39th Judicial District that encompasses both Fulton and Franklin counties, the document has been posted on both counties’ Web sites for public review. All public comments will be included as part of the final report.

In the draft of the 10-year report dated 2012-2021, local court officials noted they received notice last October from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) of a mandatory requirement to participate in the “re-establishment of magisterial districts.” As a result, judicial districts across the commonwealth have spent the following months assessing if it is feasible to eliminate any magisterial districts.

In helping make a determination, the local judicial district overseen by President Judge Douglas Herman used a variety of information and statistics including cases involving criminal, traffic, non-traffic, private complaints, civil, landlord tenant and miscellaneous docket filings. An additional measure involving a differentiation between case types and judicial workload was also considered.

The report indicates the preferred method of eliminating magisterial districts is through “attrition.” “Whenever practical, reductions should occur by eliminating a district, which is vacant or in which the incumbent is retiring or not planning to seek reelection,” the report states. At the conclusion of 2011, longtime District Judge Carol Johnson stepped down from her position to retire. She was replaced through the electoral process by local attorney and former public defender Tamela Bard.

Since Johnson was replaced and considering the office’s high average case and workload, it is not being suggested by the court that the magisterial district be eliminated.

In fact, in the final recommendation to the AOPC, it is not suggested to eliminate any of the existing district courts in Fulton and Franklin counties.

As a result, the lone suggestion here is to re-establish the boundary lines for the offices of judges Bard, Devin Horne and Wendy Mellott.

In neighboring Franklin County, several changes in boundaries are being recommended in the plan for the offices of judges Jody Eyer, Todd Williams and David Plum. Bordering Fulton County, Judge Eyer, whose office is situated in the borough of Mercersburg, is being asked to take over Metal Township as part of his jurisdiction, except for the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

It was further noted, the reestablishment process occurs every 10 years in connection with the federal decennial census. The final plan and public comments must be submitted to the AOPC for approval no later than March 30.

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