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Other important initiatives of the Court of Common Pleas
* Establishment of two very successful courts; the Veteran's
Court and the Mental Health Court.
* Establishment of an Elder Law Task Force & a focus on
* Updated and Revised Local Rules.
* A new jury app is up and running which allows jurors to
interact with the Jury Commission and qualify on line,
efficiently and effectively.
* E-Filing - Special thanks need to go to Gerald C.
Montella, Esq., Court Administrator, for his efforts and
hundreds of hours over the course of the last six years.
County Council has also provided great support in designing
and working toward implementation of the new system.
In Family Court, under the guidance of Judge Barry C.
Dozor, we have transitioned to a one family, one judge system.
Under the guidance of Mimi Walker, we have implemented precontempt conferences reducing the number of judge's hearings,
and formalized a Community Service Order for defendants to
pay timely each week or serve Community Service over the
weekend. Judge Dozor worked with the legal services agencies
and one of their important initiatives is to establish a local rule
to allow for limited entry of appearance of counsel for pro bono
family cases. This allows counsel to help on a specific issue
without requiring counsel to respond to all the other issues that
may come up in a family setting.
Our interior and exterior common areas have been
improved. There is more work to be done, but we have worked
with what resources are available and have paid attention to our
space requirements for the future.
The security committee headed by Judge Green and Judge
Capuzzi developed policies to manage the use of cell phones in
the courtroom. Judge Capuzzi has also worked hard to insure
that security at the Courthouse is a major priority.
The Magisterial District Judge (MDJ) courts were reduced
from 34 to 30 by order of Supreme Court. The Supreme Court
looked at total county numbers and looked to reduce judges
in areas where the judges retired. This method allows sitting
judges not to be removed, but it does sometimes create a further
imbalance in case loads. In addition, hiring at the MDJ level
has become a challenge and we are woefully short staffed. In
conjunction with an understanding with County Council, I
anticipate changes will occur which will resolve this staffing
crisis. Under the supervision of Chuck McDonald we have
implemented many efficiencies for our MDJ courts. We were
the second county in Pennsylvania to implement ePay bail at the
MDJ courts having requested it while the AOPC was piloting
it in another county. We initiated a program taking the dormant
video equipment not being used by MDJ staff and brought it
up to full utilization thus cutting delays and eliminating state
transports. Most significantly, we have just finalized installing
the Court Smart digital recording system into all of our 22
MDJ locations. This is the same system that has been used so
successfully in our common pleas courts. This will make audio
recordings available and transcriptions much easier to obtain and
it allows the MDJ courts to be on the record all of the time.
We have come a long way with technology and we have
a long way to go. Our cable system out to the prison required
updating, as a number of matters are handled via this vital link.
In an effort to minimize costs, Internet access was utilized to
develop the much more flexible and effective system we now
have in place for a fraction of the costs. Public Defenders can
now conduct interviews from their offices. The program has
been so successful we needed to add rooms at the prison to
accommodate the demand. Donna Reason, Director, Legal
Audio Visual, gets remarkable results with only a few staff. She
somehow manages to always be available and always in ten
places at one time. As a result of this experience, we formed a
Court Technology Committee chaired by Chuck McDonald.
We evolved our Criminal Justice Advisory Board (CJAB)
under the leadership of Judge Nilon. The Board is set up
under the guidelines established by the Pa Commission on
Crime Delinquency (PCCD) and our Board has been existence
for many years. After having reduced prison populations
significantly, the Board moved on to new ideas and initiatives.
Judge Nilon streamlined the board to include mainly the policy
makers from the county, the courts, the prison, the offices of the
District Attorney and Public Defenders. As a result, he instituted
an era of frank discussion which has resulted in the resolution
of many issues and the starting of new initiatives while meeting
effectively as a full committee on a quarterly basis.
The streamlining of Criminal Justice Advisory Board to
quarterly meetings allowed us to recognize the importance of
other sections and establish on a Quarterly Basis a Family Law
Advisory Committee headed by Judge Cartisano, and a Juvenile
Delinquency and Dependency Advisory committees headed by
Judge Nichols. All of these boards have made great strides in
cross discipline communication and operations all leading again
to the effective, fair and efficient movement of cases.
Finally, in the past few years, we have had solid additions
to the bench in Judge Cappelli, Judge Mackrides, Judge
Scanlon, Judge Amoroso, and Judge Pileggi, all of whom have
a tremendous work ethic. The past five years have seen the
development of many initiatives to meet the types of cases that
are filtering into the courts as a result of changes and challenges
facing our society. I think we as a bench and bar have responded
admirably and I think we are well-positioned to meet the
challenges moving forward.
On a personal note, the last five years have been some of the
most rewarding of my career. The opportunity to work with such
distinguished colleagues on the Bench and at the Bar has been
for me a great honor. Thank you.
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