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Fayette district judge office to close

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the closing of a Fayette County district judge office and the realignment of two offices into one, leaving two candidates in limbo.

Under the order, effective Jan. 1, the office of retiring District Judge Dwight K. Shaner of Franklin Township will be eliminated and the jurisdiction shifted to the office of Jesse Cramer of Belle Vernon.

The realignment must be completed by the end of the year in conjunction with Shaner's retirement. The state mandatory retirement age is 70.

The order was handed down 14 months after the Administrative Office of Fayette County Courts recommended the plan.

Richard A. Kasunic II, 38, the son of state Sen. Richard A. Kasunic, D-Dunbar Township, and Shaner's daughter, Soni Shaner Mancuso, both Dunbar Township residents, recently announced they would seek election to the office.

“I have no comment at this time,” Kasunic II said when contacted last night. “I'm trying to confirm some things.”

Likewise, Mancuso declined comment other than to say that she plans to “seek additional information” and that she remains interested in running for the position “if possible.”

Communities served by Shaner's office will be combined with the communities falling under the jurisdiction of Cramer. That office likely will move to a more central location for the newly aligned district — 10-3-04, which will consist of the boroughs of Belle Vernon, Dawson, Dunbar, Everson, Fayette City, Newell, Perryopolis and Vanderbilt and the townships of Dunbar, Franklin, Jefferson, Lower Tyrone, Perry, Upper Tyrone and Washington.

According to a report released last year by the Administrative Office of Fayette County Courts, the two offices have smaller caseloads than Fayette's other six districts. Cramer's office averages 2,060 cases annually for an average workload that is 60 percent less than the other offices, while Shaner averages 4,201 cases for an average workload that is 19 percent less than the others.

The combined workload more closely mirrors that of the other offices, according to the report.

Chuck Brittain is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6675 or cbrittain@tribweb.com.

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