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Officials split court duties

| Thursday, April 4, 2002, 12:00 p.m.

Allegheny County court officials scrambled Wednesday to parcel out work formerly done by Senior Judge Robert E. Dauer and Orphans' Court Administrative Judge Paul Zavarella, each of whom died within the past week.

Dauer, 73, died in his sleep Tuesday. Zavarella, 69, who suffered from cancer, passed away on Saturday.

Common Pleas Judge Gerard Bigley, administrative judge of the Criminal Division, said Dauer's duties temporarily will be split among the other judges.

"I've had several judges come to me and say whatever is needed, they'll do," Bigley said yesterday after meeting with court personnel.

Dauer, who had been a senior judge since finishing a five-year term as president judge in 1998, handled his own criminal calendar, in addition to conducting hearings in alternative programs for nonviolent offenders.

Bigley said he'll meet with state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen A. Zappala Sr., to see if the local court can get another commissioned senior judge and a full-time judge assigned to the division. He said the division is short one judge from its full 12-judge bench.

Dauer also heard cases arising from decisions by district justices and Pittsburgh magistrates in the Summary Appeals section, which comes under the supervision of President Judge Robert A. Kelly.

Court Administrator Raymond Billotte said Kelly was on vacation and no action has been taken to replace Dauer in Summary Appeals.

Billotte said he knows of no timetable for the state Supreme Court to name a new administrative judge of the Orphans' Court Division to replace Zavarella.

Kelly will assign a judge to handle Zavarella's duties in the division.

Gov. Schweiker will also name a new judge to fill the vacancy left by Zavarella. The appointee would serve until a new judge selected in the November 2003 general election takes office.

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