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Few opinions offered on justice plan

One Franklin county, Pa., district justice said his caseload has doubled during his 18 years serving Greene and Guilford townshi

One Franklin county, Pa., district justice said his caseload has doubled during his 18 years serving Greene and Guilford townshi

May 31, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - District Justice Larry Meminger said he has seen his caseload double in the 18 years he has served as magistrate for Greene and Guilford townships.

In an effort to alleviate the burden on Meminger and other busy district justice offices, Franklin County court officials are asking the state to add a seventh district justice under a plan discussed at a public hearing Thursday.

"My caseload has doubled, and the cases are becoming more cumbersome," said Meminger, who was the only person to comment on the plan that would split his current district. "I'm very excited about the plan."

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Each judicial district in the state must realign or re-establish its district justice boundaries every 10 years. This year, based on the growing population and number of complex cases, Court Administrator William Sheaffer and President Judge John Walker decided to reshuffle the districts and request a seventh justice to balance out the caseload.

Currently the county is divided into six regions with a justice in each. District justices are the first stop in the legal system in Pennsylvania. They handle everything from criminal cases to landlord-tenant disputes, small claims, consumer matters and private complaints.

The plan redraws the lines of four out of six districts and creates a new district to cover Guilford and Quincy townships and the Borough of Mont Alto.

Population, geography, convenience to the public, and, for the first time, caseload were all factors in the realignment, Sheaffer said.

"We propose this as a way to give district justices additional relief, particularly those that serve Chambersburg, Waynesboro and Guilford and Greene townships, where they see in excess of 5,000 filings a year," Sheaffer said.

Small districts like Mercersburg, which includes all of southwestern Franklin County, have a much smaller caseload with an average of 1,660 filings annually, Sheaffer said.

He notified all municipalities in the county affected by the plan and said those who responded did not oppose the plan.

"This is a good plan," Meminger said. "We as district justices would like to see three, four or five justices added."

Under the proposal, the changes would not take effect until January 2004. Officials recommended no changes in Fulton County, which is part of the 39th Judicial District with Franklin County.

The county must file the plan with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court by June 30.

After trying different scenarios to reduce the volume in the Chambersburg and Waynesboro offices, officials settled on making Chambersburg its own district and Waynesboro and Washington Township its own.

Hamilton Township would join Fannett, Letterkenny, Lurgan and Metal townships as one district, and Greene Township would join Shippensburg, Orrstown and Southampton Township as one.

No changes would be made to the Greencastle-Antrim Township district or to the Mercersburg district.

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