Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Judicial Election Results Across Northeastern Pennsylvania

The Judicial Election results from across Northeastern Pennsylvania brought some surprises in some spots and met expectations in other areas.

Luzerne County

In Luzerne County, the voters elected not to retain Judge Peter Paul Olszewski, Jr. for a second 10 year term as he fell victim to the ongoing negative publicity surrounding the scandal involving former Judges Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella. A candidate for judicial retention is required to receive 50 percent yes votes; Judge Olsewski only secured 44.5 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, the other Luzerne County Judge up for retention, Judge Thomas F. Burke, Jr., received 61.6 percent "yes" votes and was thereby retained to another ten year term.

In terms of new Judges being elected to the bench in Luzerne County, William Amesbury and Tina Polacheck-Gartley prevailed.

With the loss of Olszewski from the bench, there are three open seats--Olszewski's seat to be vacated in January, the seat vacated by former Judge Ciavarella, and the seat that is being held open while Judge Lokuta continues her fight in the Court of Judicial Discipline.

Hopefully, the Pennsylvania Legislature and the Governor will work swiftly to allow for an appointment to fill at least two of those seats so that the Luzerne County court system can continue to make forward steps to restoring confidence and moving its caseload ahead. I note that, currently, the trial backlog in that county is over a year.

Lackawanna County

In neighboring Lackawanna County, Judge Terrence R. Nealon and Judge Michael J. Barrasse, easily secured the necessary "yes" vote for each of them to be retained for another 10 year term.

In terms of the election to fill the open spot on the Lackawanna County Bench, Margie Bisignani-Moyle easily defeated her opponent.

The word is that Judge Bisignani-Moyle will begin her term in the family court. This is unfortunate as the civil division could use another judge to help ease the current trial backlog which, as in Luzerne County, is over a year. However, situations and positions change and, given her experience in the criminal courts (she's a former assistant district attorney) and in civil matters, perhaps Judge Bisignani-Moyle could someday go on to substantially serve in those arenas as well.

Wyoming/Sullivan Counties

District Judge Russell Shurtleff won the election for Judge of Wyoming/Sullivan Counties (one judge covers both counties). He is replacing retiring Judge Brendan Vanston.

Monroe County

In Monroe County, Judge Maggie Worthington easily secured the necessary "yes" vote to be retained for another 10 year terms as a court of common pleas judge.

Also, Jennifer Harlacher Sibum, running unopposed after having secured a victory on both sides, Republican and Democrat, in the primary, was elected to the Court of Common Pleas. Judge Sibum will be replacing retiring Judge Jerome Cheslock.

Carbon County

Palmerton attorney Steve Serfass was elected Carbon County's third judge in yesterday's election.

Northampton County

Previously appointed Judge Leonard Zito, District Judge Michael Koury, Jr., and state lawmaker Craig Dally were elected to the bench in Northampton County.

Other Judicial Elections

According to this morning's local newspapers, Republican Joan Orie Melvin has defeated Democrat Jack Panella in the election for a new Supreme Court Judge. Judge Melvin's win restores a one-seat majority for the GOP on that bench.

In the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh lawyer Patricia McCullough and Harrisburg lawyer Kevin Brobson were victorious.

In the Pennsylvania Superior Court, as of this morning it was being reported that Allegheny County Judge Judy Olsen and Tioga County lawyer Sallie Mundy both prevailed. However, elections for two other seats on that bench were too close to call.

For more background on the winning Judges, I suggest going to their individual campaign websites. Anyone desiring any additional information, please feel free to contact me and I can tell you what I know of the background of some of these candidates that I have worked with before.

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