Rendell won't fill two local judge vacancies - LancasterOnline: News

Rendell won't fill two local judge vacancies

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Posted: Friday, April 30, 2010 9:02 pm | Updated: 5:18 pm, Wed Sep 11, 2013.

Gov. Ed Rendell will not seek to fill any of the more than two dozen judicial vacancies across Pennsylvania, including two in Lancaster County, a spokesman said Friday.

The move is in response to Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille's call this week for a freeze on nominating interim judges amid the judiciary's "precarious financial position."

"The governor and the chief justice have agreed that he will make no new appointments to vacancies unless the local county court can convince the chief justice that it is warranted by the backlog of cases in that county," Rendell spokesman Gary Tuma said.

Locally, the decision means the vacancy created by the unexpected death of Common Pleas Judge Henry S. Kenderdine earlier this month will go unfilled through 2011, said Lancaster County President Judge Joseph C. Madenspacher.

"In light of this, there is a very poor chance of attaining an appointment," he said. "It's disappointing to see it. I was moving forward on the assumption that we would be able to at least have an opportunity to get an appointment."

The county will elect a judge in the November 2011 election, and the winner will be seated in January 2012.

Kenderdine died at his home on April 10. He was in his 19th year as a judge, presiding primarily over family court cases.

In addition, the magisterial district judge seat left vacant by Maynard A. Hamilton Jr.'s retirement in 2009 will remain unfilled through next year. The district comprises Strasburg, Pequea and West Lampeter townships and Strasburg Borough.

The two seats here are among 28 that are vacant across the state, said Art Heinz, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. In all, there are 15 vacant magisterial judge seats; 12 vacant common pleas court seats; and one vacant Superior Court seat.

In a letter to Rendell Tuesday, Castille, the state Supreme Court's top justice, asked the governor not to nominate interim judges as a way to "achieve some short-term savings."

READ: Castille's letter to Rendell (PDF)

Castille said the judiciary is in an "extremely difficult position" financially and is "facing an even more disastrous situation" in the next fiscal year.

He said Rendell's proposal, if adopted, will leave the courts more than $53.2 million short.

"Our court does not take this request lightly; but given the dire fiscal situation, we believe that this is one way that we can address our fiscal needs as opposed to other perhaps more draconian methods such as shutting down courts entirely," Castille wrote to Rendell.

The letter also was sent to all of Pennsylvania's president judges.

State Sen. Lloyd Smucker, who was involved in the effort to identify a potential replacement for Kenderdine, said he was not surprised the governor will allow the seat to go unfilled until after the next election.

"I think that we certainly find ourselves in a tough financial situation in the state," said Smucker, a Republican from West Lampeter Township.

"There's a growing recognition in all aspects of government that we have to find a way to make ends meet," he said.

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