County not backing down on judicial appointments

  • By Linda Metz February 15, 2013
Sen. Tim Solobay

Property tax reform, the privatization of the state liquor system and small games of chance legislation were among the issues named as top priorities among the six state legislators who spoke Friday at the League of Women Voters of Washington County luncheon.

But it wasn’t until after the luncheon had ended that perhaps the county’s most pressing problem was addressed.

As most of the small luncheon crowd was putting on coats preparing to leave Angelo’s restaurant in North Franklin Township, state Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, and Republican county Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan stayed seated in the back of the banquet room discussing how to get Gov. Tom Corbett to make an appointment to fill at least one of the county’s two open judicial seats.

Solobay said he talked to the governor Thursday about the urgency of filling the vacancies. Irey said she called the governor Monday.

The county court has been operating with just four full-time judges and occasional help from visiting senior judges since the first of the year, when Judge Janet Moschetta Bell’s retirement took effect. The other open seat came in June when Judge Paul Pozonsky suddenly resigned after 15 years on the bench.

“They’re working at times to 8 or 10 at night,” said Irey of the court staff and employees from related departments. “We need help.”

In January, Solobay said he was hopeful that Corbett would agree to temporarily fill at least one of the seats until new judges are elected in November. The senator said the appointment should be made as soon as possible so that the interim judge could be of some real use to the court system.

Although it’s now mid-February, Solobay said he’s not ready to give up.

“You have to remember there are 20 judicial vacancies across the state,” he said.

Should Corbett make nominations for the open judicial seats, it will be up to the state Senate to confirm the appointments. An interim judge will serve only until the end of the year.

Neither Washington County President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca nor anyone from the governor’s press office returned calls for comment.

A small but interested group gathered for the league’s luncheon that featured Solobay and state Reps. Jesse White, D-Cecil, Brandon Neuman, D-Washington, Peter Daley, D-California, Pamela Snyder, D-Waynesburg, and Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth.

The legislators were asked to discuss their stance on election law, education and social services.

Linda Metz has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2000, covering Washington County courts and politics, as well as the city of Washington. She previously was employed by the Tribune Review. She is a graduate of Point Park College, now a university, in Pittsburgh.


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