Senior judge to fill-in for Washington Township district magistrate
By Chuck Biedka
Published: Friday, Jan. 6, 2012
A retired judge will fill in for the Washington Township district judge-elect until he passes a state certification test.
Jason Buczak, 35, a Westmoreland County deputy sheriff from Avonmore, won the November election, but must retake the test in order to fill the seat for the district that includes Bell, Loyalhanna and parts of Salem Township as well as Washington Township and Avonmore.
Senior District Judge Bernice McCutcheon is handling cases for Magisterial District 10-3-05 this month until Buczak is certified and takes the oath of office.
Even so, Buczak was listed Thursday on the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania website as the judge for District 10-3-05.
District judge certifications are administered by the state's Minor Judiciary Education Board in Harrisburg.
"This is a difficult course," said Susan Davis, who directs the board. "It's sort of like a condensed law school. It's pretty intense."
Davis refused to describe the test or to give the score of Buczak, who is an elected public official.
She also wouldn't say how many people took the test, or how many failed.
"I can only say we've never have had a class where everyone passes or everyone fails," she said.
"I was told I barely missed on the essay portion of the test," Buczak said.
Don Heagy, who administers district courts in Westmoreland County, said he isn't concerned.
"We anticipate Jason certifying and (being) in office in early February," Heagy said.
McCutcheon said that's what she has heard, too.
"The test is hard," she said. "It includes about four essays."
Buczak said he plans on attending training for new district judges in Harrisburg next week.
He also is registered to retake the test at the end of the month.
Heagy confirmed that recent Westmoreland County sheriff Charles D. Moore, of Scottdale, passed the same test taken by Buczak and has been seated as district judge in the Scottdale area.
Davis said the certification test is given two or three times a year, every other year. District judges also are required to complete 32 hours of continuing education annually.Additional Information:
What does a district judge do?
District magisterial judges, who serve six-year terms, preside over the arraignment and preliminary hearings of criminal suspects, such as those for drunken driving, burglary and robbery or even murder, in their district unless these people waive their right to a preliminary hearing. When a district judge deems that there is enough evidence, the case is sent to county court for trial.
A district judge also handles civil disputes such as landlord-tenant disputes, delinquency and contract disagreements involving as much as $12,000.
A DJ also listens to evidence and rules on summary criminal cases such as vehicle code offenses, underage drinking, illegal fishing and game law violations. Any appeals are made to county court.
A district judge is paid $82,303 annually plus benefits.
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.