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Meminger seat remains vacant

March 08, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - March 30 will mark one year since the unexpected death of Magisterial District Judge Larry Meminger, yet no name has been placed in nomination by Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell to fill the vacancy in District 39-3-04.

"It's a matter of the governor choosing someone who is qualified and confirmable and he shall do that as soon as he is able," Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for the governor, said Tuesday. Ardo said there is no schedule for submitting a name to the state Senate for confirmation.

Ardo said last summer the governor submitted a staff member's name as a "filler nomination," a technical maneuver to extend the 90-day limit to fill the vacancy. That remains the case, he said.

"The governor is thumbing his nose at the people of Franklin County," District Attorney John F. Nelson said Monday. Rendell has "stonewalled" the nomination, he said.

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"We're very upset with the governor's office," Magisterial District Judge Larry Pentz of Waynesboro, Pa., said. The county's other six magistrates continue to handle the extra central court and on-call duties since Meminger's death, he said.

"We're all still waiting for the governor to send a name over to us," said Anne Stine of state Sen. Terry Punt's office.

Stine said Punt, R-Pa., came to an understanding with the governor's office last fall "that a name would be forthcoming."

Once a name is submitted to the Senate, the person must be confirmed by a simple majority, according to the state constitution.

Punt had been supporting Meminger's widow, Kindra, who passed the Minor Judiciary Education Board Qualifying School last year, but then withdrew her name from consideration last fall, Pentz said.

The name Punt put forth after she withdrew is Assistant District Attorney T.R. Williams "and here we are four months later still waiting for the governor to nominate him and fill the vacancy," Pentz said.

As an attorney living in the district, Williams said he is qualified. Because the nomination must be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, Williams, a registered Republican, said he is also confirmable.

Attorney Clinton Barkdoll, a county Democratic committeeman, said his party has taken no position on the appointment. The county committee last year "chose not to send a name or endorse anyone," he said.

"I don't pretend to understand the politics of it," Pentz said. "Larry was a Republican, it's a Republican area and it should be a Republican that fills the seat."

Senior Magisterial District Judge Brenda Knepper, who formerly served in Fulton County, is working part-time at the district's Scotland, Pa., office, Pentz said.

If Rendell delays submitting a name to the Senate for another year, Nelson said the seat will be up for election in 2007 and could conceivably remain unfilled until January 2008, almost three years.

District 39-3-04 includes Greene and Southampton townships, the borough of Orrstown and the Franklin County portion of the borough of Shippensburg, Pa.

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