Luzerne County Courts

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MEDIA RELEASE: January 26, 2009

I have received a copy of a letter, dated January 23, 2009, that Judge Mark Ciavarella has sent to Governor Rendell resigning as President Judge of the Luzerne County Court.

With the resignation of Judge Ciavarella as President Judge, I, as senior serving judge, will oversee the administration of our court and its various departments until the election of a new President Judge on seventy-two (72) hours notice to the members of the court.

I am confident that the current members of this court are prepared to address the following priorities in an expeditious manner:

First, to maintain the function of the court by conducting the business of our court on a timely basis;

Second, to make every effort to restore public trust and confidence in the judiciary and the court; and,

Third, to make a concerted effort to resolve the county-court budget impasse and the related litigation.

While the volume of court matters continues to reach record levels in virtually every category, it is our intention to resolve the budget situation by reviewing court personnel and our overall budget to make necessary changes. I will request and do believe the county commissioners will cooperate by allowing this court a reasonable period of time to make our own budget changes. In the interim, all court department heads have been directed not to transfer personnel and that a freeze in hiring and salary increases will be in immediate effect.

I have spoken with my colleagues and I am satisfied that in the future our judges are committed to participate in all decision making, including the necessity of positions and a fair hiring process for qualified people.

We will also re-evaluate the method of compensation for conflict counsel necessary when the Public Defender’s Office cannot provide representation and we will attempt to implement a cost effective system, but the extraordinary volume of pending criminal cases, including eight capital homicide cases, cannot be overlooked.

In closing, I want to assure our citizens that this court will continue to function and our judges will conduct all scheduled matters. Judges may be temporarily re-assigned to preside over scheduled civil matters. Pending criminal cases will be distributed among our other judges.