Bucks Writs - Summer 2020 - 4

contents
SUMMER 2020

CONTACT INFO
President
Daniel M. Keane

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Vice President/President Elect
Sean M. Gresh
Secretary
Julie D. Goldstein
Treasurer
Lawrence R. Sheetz, Jr.
Immediate Past President
Robert T. Repko

Welcome to Clerkland!
E

veryone remembers the iconic scene from the classic
film The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy's dog, Toto, pulls
back a curtain to reveal that the Great Oz is nothing
more than a man creating an illusion of a powerful wizard.
While certainly not as dramatic, being a judicial law clerk
is akin to this experience in that we get to live "behind the
curtain" - or perhaps more accurately, behind the black
robe - every day.

improve legal writing skills for younger attorneys. It is also
a great way to learn the difference between a court filing
office and a foot doctor, as one clerk found out when she
mistakenly referred to the Prothonotary as the "Podiatrist" in
an opinion submitted to the judge.
While we spend much of our time at our desks, our best
stories come from sitting in on court proceedings. For
example, PFA court has inspired an informal list of foods
alleged to be used in altercations, which currently includes

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For many attorneys, judges can be intimidating. It can be easy
to forget that judges are mere mortals amidst the pomp and
circumstance of courtroom proceedings. However, as law
clerks, we are privy to the unfiltered thoughts of judges on a
daily basis... and sometimes we even get to overhear them
singing to themselves in the hallway.

A LAW CLERK'S DAY STARTS
BY TAKING THE ELEVATOR
UP TO THE 6TH FLOOR OF
THE COURTHOUSE AND
PROCEEDING TO WHAT IS
AFFECTIONATELY KNOWN AS
"CLERKLAND." CLERKLAND
IS A COLLECTION OF
CONTIGUOUS HALF-WALL
CUBICLES THAT HOUSE THE
JUDICIAL LAW CLERKS.

A law clerk's day starts by taking the elevator up to the 6th
floor of the courthouse and proceeding to what is affectionately known as "Clerkland." Clerkland is a collection
of contiguous half-wall cubicles that house the judicial law
clerks. This layout helps to facilitate passionate debates
among clerks about a variety of asinine topics, such as
whether a banana is classified as a berry and what is or is not
a meme. But more importantly, it encourages open dialogue
and allows us to work together to provide the best possible
product for the judges.

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Of course the bulk of a law clerk's day is spent researching
legal issues and drafting memos and opinions. Receiving
feedback from judges is an invaluable way to develop and

Writs Committee
Susan Dardes
Scott I. Fegley
Scott L. Feldman
Nancy Larkin Taylor
Dianne C. Magee
Theresa Martin Golding
Paul Perlstein
Christopher J. Serpico
David J. Truelove

Last weekend, I was babysitting my five- and one-year-old
granddaughters. My five-year-old granddaughter is at that

..........................................................................................	Page 10
WHAT DOES
A LAWYER DO?

pens
ter Reo
ice Cen
ty Just
n
u
o
C
ucks
The B

By Joanne Sommer, Esquire

By Scott L. Feldman

I

t was a bright sunshiny day. People gathered from all
around, some having arrived on foot and others by car.
There was a certain anticipation and perhaps, some
nervous energy, as the masses queued up to get in. Yes, after a
prolonged wait, it was... opening day!
Yet, no one sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame, nor was there
any sighting of hot dogs or popcorn. There were giveaways!
But, alas, it consisted of empty plastic bags to be used only
once and then discarded.

Bar Association Office
Greg Nardi, Executive Director
135 East State Street
Doylestown, PA 18901
215.348.9413 * www.bucksbar.org
email submissions to
WritsEditor@BucksBar.org

..........................................................................................	Page 12

As I write this article, major league baseball has finally
returned, but it was back on June 1, 2020, after several long
months, that the Bucks County Justice Center was again open
to the public. The decision to open, and determination of the
process to do so safely, was not taken lightly.

has authority to determine Court business throughout the
state, and did so via a series of comprehensive, yet evolving,
Orders. These Orders mandated certain matters, while leaving
certain other matters subject to the discretion of the individual
counties. Accordingly, Judge Bateman has issued eighteen (18)
such "Emergency Orders" thus far, providing the Bucks County
legal community with critical information and changes.

President Judge Wallace H. Bateman was at the center of
this ongoing process. In a recent interview, he was quick to
point out that the Justice Center and the Courts never really
closed. As we all struggled with the sudden impact of the
pandemic, and its effect on schools, offices and our collective
sanity, the business of the Court of Common Pleas went on.
His Honor points out that the Court Administrator's office
was staffed every day ("a very high level of commitment").
Other row offices, such as the Register of Wills, remained
open by appointment. Judges sat on the Bench to rule on
various emergency matters, typically in the criminal and
family law arena.

The Bucks County Commissioners, along with Dr. David
Damsker, Director of the Bucks County Department of Health,
provided regular updates and directives to the Courts. The
Department of Prisons provided its updates as well. Meetings
were held with fellow Judges ("the sixth floor was great; the
attitude was 'whatever we have to do, we'll do'"), as well
as with the District Attorneys and Public Defenders offices.
Staff worked tirelessly with a can-do spirit. The Courts' own
information technology specialist, David S. Gomez, was

Judge Bateman received information and guidance from
all directions. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (AOPC)

Children's
Advocacy
Initiative

12

By Judith Algeo

Advertising Contact
Tracy Hoffmann 
610-685-0914 x201 * tracy@hoffpubs.com

Children's Advocacy Initiative
Bucks County Bar Association President Dan Keane recently
announced an exciting and ambitious new project for

..........................................................................................	Page 14

BUCKS COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION
PRESIDENT DAN KEANE RECENTLY
ANNOUNCED AN EXCITING AND
AMBITIOUS NEW PROJECT FOR THE

Judge James McMaster and District Attorney Matt
Weintraub have expressed both the need for and the
support of such a program.

Since March, my CAI committee co-chair Tim Barton and
I have worked with BCBA Executive Director Greg Nardi
and President Dan Keane to develop a framework for
the CAI including recruitment, training and fundraising.
A preliminary announcement of the Initiative in March
2020 elicited interest from 20 lawyers to serve as the first
volunteers for the program.

BCBA. Planned in conjunction with the Bucks County
Bar Foundation, under the leadership of President Jessica
Pritchard, the Children's Advocacy Initiative (CAI) will
provide lawyers as Child Advocate or Guardian Ad Litem to
represent children involved in the justice system.
The CAI's mission is that no child should ever face the
court system alone without an Advocate standing beside
him or her, advocating for the child's needs and wishes.
The Bucks County Guardian Ad Litem's office currently
already handles the large and complex caseload of children
involved in the juvenile court dependency system. The
CAI intends to fill the gap for those children who are not
adjudicated dependent but involved in the court system
through no fault of their own. Initially the CAI's focus
will be on children serving as victim-witnesses in the
criminal justice system and children who are involved in
high-conflict custody cases. Family Court Administrative
By Kim Litzke

June 3, 2020 was a first. Previously, the
largest list I've ever seen cleared in one
day was 50 cases. I had no idea how
we were going to handle the volume
that was building. As we got closer to
reopening, much thought and coordination had to go into a plan to resume
functioning. We needed to keep people
(parties and lawyers) safe at a time
when everyone feared being exposed
to the virus. We needed to make sure
parties were well represented when in
their final hearings. The court devised
a plan that four different judges would
be in four different courtrooms one day
and we could spread out the amount
of people that would still need to come

The first volunteer training is anticipated in Fall 2020 with
a goal of volunteers being assigned cases by the end of
this year. If you are interested in serving as a volunteer
Child Advocate or Guardian Ad Litem or would like more
information, please contact Greg Nardi at: greg.nardi@
bucksbar.org. As we move closer to finalizing the training
plans and requirements, notices will be sent to those who
have indicated their interest. Please note, potential volunteers
will need to commit to six consecutive hours of training
before being assigned a case.

A Pandemic Backlog
June 3, 2020 was the day. There were 160 PFA cases. Every
case that had been filed prior to mid-March and continued

14

JUNE 3, 2020 WAS THE DAY.
There were 160 PFA cases. Every case
that had been filed prior to mid-March
and continued to a date after that, as
well as new filings in the second half
of March, April and May, went to an
ex parte hearing before a judge but
the final hearings were not scheduled
while the courts were closed. When
the court started figuring out how to
reopen, discussions centered on how
the PFA backlog could be cleared.
Bucks County has a long history of an
attorney volunteer program so that
domestic abuse parties would have
representation. The volunteer program
has enabled us to serve all parties that
needed relief from the court on the
one day a week for PFA hearings. Bucks
County Court of Common Please hears
all PFA cases on Wednesdays, which
allows the other days of the week for
judges to hear support, custody and
divorce matters.

..........................................................................................	Page 16
to the court house by staggering the
report times. The Court figured out
cleaning, requiring masks, arranging
chairs for social distancing and even
an elaborate plan to get through
security. Even with all that, how were
we going to be able to get 160 cases
heard in one day?

two to three times more clients than
they ever previously represented by
calling their opposing counsel in
advance of the day. The volunteers
barely batted an eye. They got on the
phones. They called their clients. They
called opposing counsel. They worked
with the coordinator in their courtroom
to get their questions answered and
kept the coordinator aware of the
status of their cases.

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We put out the call. We told previous
volunteers and attorneys that had
never volunteered about our plan. They
learned what safety precautions were in On the morning of June 3, 2020, I
place and they said they were willing to woke up thinking that we were as
come. But then we told them what we prepared as we were ever going to be
were asking of them to make this work. and hopeful that we could we pull it
We were asking them to work for two
off smoothly. It worked. It was amazing
weeks prior to the big day to represent to see 42 volunteer attorneys work

BUCKS COUNTY REGISTER OF
WILLS/CLERK OF ORPHANS' COURT:
16

LINDA BOBRIN
By Chris Serpico

It's been said that "necessity
is the mother of invention."

Bobrin had been in office for a little
over two months when the pandemic
forced all of Bucks County's administration offices to shut down. During
what is traditionally one of the busiest
times of the year for people looking to
get marriage licenses, Bobrin and her
staff figured out a way that people could
still access services they desperately needed,
especially at a time when marriage
often was necessary to allow one
partner to obtain or maintain health
insurance coverage through their
partner's insurance plan.

So when the coronavirus struck in
early March, and pursuant to Governor
Wolf and President Judge Bateman's
directives, the Bucks County Courthouse
essentially shut down on March 17th,
hundreds of engaged couples in Bucks
County were left wondering how
in the world they were going to be
able to obtain the license required
for them to legally "tie the knot"
in Pennsylvania.

Bucks County Register of Wills/Clerk of
Orphans' Court: Linda Bobrin
It's been said that "necessity is the mother of invention." So

..........................................................................................	Page 18

Although the virus shut down much
of the Commonwealth, and the rest
of the country for that matter, there
were a few counties that moved the
application process online, including
York, Dauphin, and Philadelphia.

PUBLISHER
Hoffmann Publishing Group, Inc.
2921 Windmill Road
Reading, PA 19608
610.685.0914 x201
HoffPubs.com

The Bucks County Justice Center Reopens
It was a bright sunshiny day. People gathered from all
around, some having arrived on foot and others by car. There

10

feature

Writs Photographer
Dylan Gilheany

What Does a Lawyer Do?

8

Past Presidents' Representative
Joanne M. Murray
Writs Editor
Jason R. Weiss

Everyone remembers the iconic scene from the classic film
The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy's dog, Toto, pulls back a

By John P. Uetz, Esquire, Law Clerk to the Honorable Charissa J. Liller;
and Thomas J. Nolan, Jr., Esquire, Law Clerk to the Honorable Robert J. Mellon

Bobrin had been in
office for a little over
two months when the
pandemic forced all
of Bucks County's
administration
offices to shut down.

Bobrin's innovative solution was
commented on by newspapers
throughout the area, including
the Bucks County Courier Times,
the Erie Times-News, and The
New York Times!

But that wasn't the only innovation Bobrick came up
with. Because she recognized that despite the ongoing
health crisis, estates would still need to be opened,
her office introduced their "Fast Track Option," a pilot
program that utilizes technology to open estates. By
setting up an account after going online to www.
buckscounty.org/rowocrecords, attorneys and laypersons
can fill out an online form and submit necessary
documents, such as the original will and the original
death certificate, required to open an estate. Once the
Register is supplied with the necessary documentation by
regular mail, arrangements are made to set up a videoconference call to make necessary payments by credit
card, and to swear in the Executor or Administrator.

But they offered the service exclusively to their own
residents. Only in Bucks County was the opportunity
provided to citizens from anywhere in the country
to apply for a marriage license valid for the state
of Pennsylvania.
"We thought there had to be a way, with the technology
available to us, where we could help people who were
stuck at home. After we got things together we were
able to get it approved and then we moved forward,"
said Bucks County's Register of Wills, Linda Bobrin, when I
interviewed her at her office.

18

Also in This Issue:
*	President's Message . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
*	From the Editor...  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

*	Pro Bono Honor Roll  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

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Bucks Writs - Summer 2020

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