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New court system termed 'success'

January 30, 2001

New court system termed 'success'



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County's new central court system for preliminary hearings was an "unqualified success," said William Sheaffer, court administrator and chief architect of the new system.

"It went as well as we could have hoped," he said.

The court will be held every Tuesday in the Franklin County Courthouse.

Before Tuesday, the county's six district justices held preliminary hearings in criminal cases in their own offices, which are spread throughout the county.

The six are Shirley M. Shatzer in Antrim Township; Larry G. Pentz in Waynesboro, Pa.; Larry K. Meminger and Gary L. Carter, both in Chambersburg; David E. Hawbaker in Mercersburg, Pa., and John Weyman in Pleasant Hall, Pa.

The new system is intended to streamline the flow of criminal cases through the courts, and officials said it will make it easier for attorneys on both sides to schedule court time. It will cut down driving time for state troopers and police officers who attend the hearings and sheriff's deputies who shuttle defendants from the Franklin County Prison in Chambersburg to the district justice offices.

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Serious cases involving murder, rape and other serious felonies will continue to be heard in the offices of district justices where the crimes occurred.

Sheaffer said the only problems Tuesday were the continuance of two cases because the defendants' lawyers had just taken them on.

Under the old system, the hearings would not be rescheduled for six to eight weeks, Sheaffer said. "They're rescheduled for next week," he said.

Sheaffer said 35 cases went before the justices Tuesday. The system can handle 45 to 50 cases a day, Sheaffer said.

"It would be impossible for 30 cases to be adjudicated in a single day in all six of our offices," Hawbaker said.

Each week, two district justices will go to the county courthouse on a rotating basis to hear cases in two rooms on the third floor.

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