Preparations afoot at courthouse for two new judges

December 30, 2013
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Barbara Miller / Observer-Reporter
Debbie Rea, Washington County graphic arts supervisor, applies lettering to Courtroom No. 6, where Judge-elect Michael Lucas will soon preside. Order a Print
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Barbara Miller / Observer-Reporter
Mike Black, painter for the Washington County Building and Grounds Department, paints the ceiling of the Courtroom No. 5 reception room in preparation for the staff of soon-to-be Common Pleas Court Judge Valarie Costanzo. Order a Print

After a year and a half of operating with fewer than its complement of six judges, the Washington County bench will be brought back to full strength Thursday with swearing-in ceremonies for the two newest members of the Court of Common Pleas.

Administering the oath of office to Valarie Costanzo will be Judge Katherine B. Emery, while Judge John DiSalle will swear in Michael Lucas.

The court calendar begins Jan. 6, but the new county judges will soon be attending a mandatory Pennsylvania Supreme Court education program.

“It’s a pretty intense weeklong course in a number of substantive areas. Judicial canons, ethics and some issues with management of chambers, things like that,” said Lucas, currently the first assistant district attorney, as he was on his way to a farewell luncheon Monday at the courthouse thrown by his co-workers.

Lucas said of his current tasks, “I think I’m just boxing things up right now and trying to clear out stuff.”

Formalized Jan. 6 at a meeting of the Washington County Salary Board will be the hiring of judicial office staff. Lucas said his tipstaff will be retired state trooper and detective Patrick Leary, while his office manager will be Lynette Leasure, legal secretary at the district attorney’s office.

Costanzo could not be reached Monday. Her office in the former Cecil Township municipal building, now used by the public works department, was in the process of closing, with a planned reopening Thursday in a new location at 3441 Millers Run Road, Cecil Town Center.

President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca said District Judge Gary Havelka and Senior District Judge Jay Dutton will handle the added courtroom duties created by Costanzo’s departure. A new district judge will be elected in 2015 and take office in 2016.

Members of the minor judiciary, Larry W. Hopkins, Joshua Kanalis and David W. Mark, also will be part of the 9 a.m. swearing-in ceremony in Courtroom No. 1.

O’Dell Seneca will preside over both the 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. ceremonies, which also will include the swearing-in of County Controller Michael Namie and Sheriff Samuel F. Romano.

Recorder of Deeds Debbie Bardella was sworn in during a private ceremony Dec. 23.

A reception will follow both ceremonies in the judges’ law library on the second floor of the courthouse.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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