Hoberg

District Attorney Craig Stedman, District Judge Jayne Duncan and Senior Deputy Attorney General William Stoycos are among 10 candidates being vetted by two state senators to fill an impending vacancy on the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas.

Nearly the entire pool of candidates, which also includes a former county solicitor and a Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission member, were announced by state Sens. Ryan Aument and Scott Martin on Thursday.

The candidates are in the mix to succeed Lancaster County Judge Jay J. Hoberg, who is stepping down Jan. 31.

Gov. Tom Wolf is required to fill the vacancy with the consent of the 50-member Senate. Aument and Martin, as is typical in county court vacancies, will suggest a name to the governor.

The nine attorneys announced Thursday included Stedman, who, if he were to join the bench, would follow in the footsteps of the last three previous district attorneys, including current Judge Donald Totaro.

The other candidates are Duncan, Stoycos, former solicitor Crystal Clark, human relations commissioner Gerald Robinson, John Stengel, Chris Patterson, Shawn McLaughlin and JoAnne Murphy.

Patterson, McLaughlin and Murphy were considered for an open judicial seat last year.

One unnamed candidate wanted time to notify individuals close to them before the public identification, the senators said.

The process

Aument and Martin, through a spokesman, said earlier this week they had received applications from 10 candidates but did not intend to name them. On Thursday, they told LNP it was always their intention to release the names after first consulting with the candidates during their interviews.

The strategy, they said, was to expand the pool of qualified applicants by not limiting it to the people who might have otherwise applied, then give them the opportunity to not move forward after the interview if they did not wish their name to be released.

“We wanted to meet with each candidate to allow them to prepare for the public scrutiny,” Aument, R-Landisville, said.

Martin, R-Martic Township, said their list does not preclude anyone else from reaching out directly to the governor.

The governor’s nominee will need the approval of two-thirds of the Senate. But before then, Wolf is “always open to advice” about making appointments, his spokesman J.J. Abbott wrote in an email.

Abbott did not respond to a question about whether the governor’s office has already heard from applicants.

Wolf, for his part, “evaluates candidates based on their experience, temperament and legal acumen,” his spokesman said. “He particularly values diversity, integrity and high ethical standards.”

Regarding the timeline, the governor and senators say they hope for an expeditious process. But nominations are often made as part of a package to fill vacancies across the state.

Wolf’s last package of nominations came in June 2016 to fill 22 vacancies on the lower, county and appellate court levels.

Extra input

Aument and Martin said they are expecting input from the public with the public release of the names they’re considering.

“Anytime anyone's being considered for a public position, it has to be public,” Martin said.

Aument said, “I think the folks in Lancaster County should be pleased or will be pleased by the list. These are individuals who are highly qualified, talented, with diverse backgrounds, diverse experiences who would make a fine judge, and I think it’s important for the public to see that.”

The senators said they have not yet decided if they will seek input from the Lancaster Bar Association, which typically recommends or doesn’t recommend county judicial candidates.

The Republican Committee of Lancaster County will not be endorsing anyone for this appointment, committee chairman Dave Dumeyer said.

Dumeyer said the senators have not asked for his opinion. If they did, Dumeyer said he’d give his own thoughts but the roughly 350-member committee would not make an official endorsement.

Members will meet to endorse 2018 election candidates on Feb. 13, after the senators plan to have a judicial candidate name in to the governor.

Sally Lyall, chairwoman of the Lancaster County Democratic Committee, said the process should be merit-based and apolitical. Before the public release of the names, she was critical of the Republican senators for keeping them private.

Lyall suggested they might even put out a “simple chart” showing the candidates’ credentials — like where they went to school, the firms they’ve worked for and what their areas of expertise are.

“For something that important, selecting a judge presiding in your county, why would you not let people know here’s the slate, here’s our vetting process?” Lyall said.

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