Seneca: Washington County needs 2 judge vacancies filled
President Judge Debbie O'Dell Seneca said there are so many active cases that the Washington County Court of Common Pleas could use seven judges.
Trouble is, there are only four judges to share the load. Court officials are dealing with two vacancies and hoping appointments are made soon.
“We are definitely overburdened,” O'Dell Seneca said.
The bench has lacked sufficient judge power since 2010, following the death of Judge Mark Mascara. About four months after Mascara's death, then-Gov. Ed Rendell appointed attorney Phillip Melograne to the vacant post.
Melograne ran for a full, 10-year term the following year, but was defeated in the primary election by attorney Gary Gilman. Gilman won the post in the fall 2011.
The courthouse was recently rocked by the abrupt retirement of Judge Paul Pozonsky.
Pozonsky, 56, who handled the majority of the county's criminal cases, had served for 15 years and had five years remaining on a 10-year term. Pozonsky resigned June 29 after the district attorney's office questioned his order to destroy evidence in 17 criminal cases.
He is under investigation by the state Attorney General's Office.
Pozonsky most recently had a brief stint in Alaska as a Worker's Compensation Board hearing officer. The Anchorage Daily News reported last month that he resigned after reporters began asking his superiors about the Pennsylvania investigation.
Judge Janet Moschetta Bell announced in November her intention to retire after six years on the bench. O'Dell Seneca said Friday is Moschetta Bell's last day.
The president judge said she is hopeful Gov. Tom Corbett will see the need to quickly fill the vacancies because of a growing workload.
“We've seen growth in Washington County in population and growth in the Marcellus shale industry,” O'Dell Seneca said. “There has been an increase in all of our cases.”
State Sen. Timothy Solobay, D-Canonsburg, is working with O'Dell Seneca, the remaining judges, the Washington County Bar Association and the governor's office on the appointments.
“The governor knows its a timely issue, ” Solobay said. “We're looking for judges who will work side-by-side with the current bench.”
O'Dell Seneca and Solobay would like the positions filled by people not interested in seeking elected terms on the court.
Solobay said the following attorneys, so far, have applied for the positions: Robert Clark, Dave DiCarlo, Mike Lucas, Peter Marcoline, Stephen McCloskey and Ronald Reitz.
Lucas, of Charleroi, is the county's first assistant district attorney. DiCarlo unsuccessfully ran for district attorney in 2011.
Solobay said once the governor makes the nominations, it will be up to the Senate to confirm the appointments. The Senate returns from its break Jan. 22.
“We want everybody on board with these appointments,” said Solobay, adding he would like to keep “politics” out of the process.
“We want the best people for the positions,” he said.
In the meantime, O'Dell Seneca will rely on senior judges to help with the workload. She has called upon her colleagues and friends in Allegheny County to help in the interim, including Judge Michael A. Della Vecchia, who helped handle cases last month.
“We're just going to have to roll up our sleeves and prioritize our cases,” she said.
Stacy Wolford is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724)-684-2640 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Donora handbag dispute sparks fight
- No quorum in Rostraver
- History abounds at site of Maple Creek Distributing
- Fayette man charged in child sex case
- Alleged Mon Valley heroin trafficker arrested
- Bentleyville man accused in stabbing
- New contract for Monessen teachers
- New Mon Valley Regional Chamber committee is inviting young professionals to join
- Mon City, Donora families charged after child custody dispute
- Retired Monessen mail carrier, veteran, 97, still loves to travel the world
- Namath performed in contest at, not against, Monessen