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New district justice takes office today

January 05, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

MONT ALTO, Pa. - Her robe may not have arrived in time for her first day on the job, but Kelly L. Rock said she is ready to assume her duties today as the seventh district justice for Franklin County.

Rock, 38, of Mont Alto, Pa., will be at the Franklin County Courthouse this morning to be sworn in to the newly created minor judiciary office, which will encompass the borough of Mont Alto and Quincy and Guilford townships.

Among those expected to join her for the ceremony is Esther Cordell, her grandmother and a former justice of the peace for the same area. Her grandfather, the late Frank Cordell, also was a justice of the peace in the days before the district magistrate system was adopted.

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Rock, who was a library aide in the Waynesboro (Pa.) Area School District for 10 years, was among a field of 10 candidates for the new post in the May 20 primary. Candidates can cross-file for judiciary seats, and she finished on top in the Republican primary and went on to defeat Douglas J. Furness in the November general election.

Her campaign mostly was retail politics, getting out and pounding on doors, introducing herself and "letting them know what I stand for."

"My biggest thing was to treat everyone fairly," she said.

Despite being a lifelong resident of the Quincy area, Rock said she will "go on a case-by-case basis, not a friend-by-friend basis."

It was Rock's first run for political office and, despite her family background, she said she might not have run had the new district not been created. Mont Alto had been within the area of District Justice Larry Pentz and Rock said she would not have run while he still was in office.

Since the primary, Rock has been preparing for the job. In June, she attended the four-week Minor Judiciary Education Board course in Chambersburg, Pa., which culminated in a test involving 100 objective questions and four essay questions on the issues of citations, civil law, search and seizure laws, and preliminary arraignments and hearings.

"It was a lot of information you needed to know in a short period of time," said Rock, whose husband, David, is the county manager for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. They have two children, Megan and Bradley.

As a district justice, Rock will be dealing with everything from speeding tickets to major felonies. District justice offices also are where landlord-tenant disputes and other civil matters involving relatively small sums of money are adjudicated.

"I spent a lot of time at Larry Pentz's office and I spent a lot of time at (District Justice) Larry Meminger's office, kind of testing the waters before I jump in," Rock said of her preparation for office.

What she sat in on, Rock said, mostly was traffic court and landlord-tenant disputes, but she also "saw a couple of weddings." That's another duty justices sometimes are asked to perform.

Guilford Township had been part of Meminger's district until now, and Rock's office will be in his former office on Franklin Farm Lane. Meminger moved to new offices in the Greene Township Municipal Building in Scotland, Pa.

The aging office space Rock gets the keys to today eventually will be replaced by the county, she said.

"I just don't know when and I don't know where," she said.

Rock will have some experienced help as she enters office. Kim Woodal, a member of Meminger's staff for more than 14 years, will join her staff.

Rock said she also has hired another staffer and may get a third later in the year. While district magistrates are on the state payroll, the funding of their staffs and offices is left to the county.

Woodal's experience came into play quickly when she asked Rock in November whether she had ordered a judicial robe, one of those details that does not quickly come to mind. Rock said Sunday she did not know whether it had been delivered.

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