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Bill to create fourth Pa. judgeship dies in Senate

November 27, 1996

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin and Fulton counties will have to wait a little longer to get a fourth judge after a bill was shot down Tuesday night at the close of the Pennsylvania Legislature's 1996 session.

The House passed the bill Tuesday evening and sent it to the Senate, said Rep. Pat Fleagle, R-Franklin. The Senate didn't pass the bill, in part because some senators felt that the measure was brought up too late and that they didn't have enough time to confer with local officials, said Sally Kohr, chief of staff for Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin.

A fourth judge for the 39th Judicial District had been requested by President Judge John Walker and supported by Franklin County Commissioners because of a heavy caseload.

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"I'm disappointed but it's certainly not the end of the world," Fleagle said. He said he would work to reintroduce a similar measure when the new session begins next year. He said he didn't want to leave the judges and commissioners in limbo for planning purposes.

Franklin County Court Administrator William Sheaffer said the caseload has increased steadily, especially in family law.

Under the bill, the judge would have taken office in January of 1998 after municipal elections in 1997. Fleagle said he had been laying the groundwork for another judgeship since June. The bill also would have added judgeships to other districts across the state, Fleagle said. The language adding the judgeships was amended to another bill earlier Tuesday, Fleagle said.

Franklin County Finance Director Jerry Frey said an extra judge would cost the county roughly $300,000 extra per year, not including the judge's salary and other state subsidies. Frey said additional staff such as a secretary and a law clerk would have to be hired.

The addition also could mean an expansion of the courthouse complex, which now has three courtrooms. Sheaffer said the courthouse could use other facilities temporarily, but that more space ultimately would be needed.

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