DELAWARE COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS
2006-2007 COURT SUMMARY
In 2006 and 2007, the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas experienced a significant increase in criminal cases. The Honorable Edward J. Zetusky, Jr., was elected as President Judge.
Under the leadership and guidance of President Judge Zetusky, the Court continued to dispense justice in its two divisions, Orphans’ Court and General Trial.
The Court continued to be recognized as a statewide leader in effective criminal justice planning through its Criminal Justice Advisory Committee. The Court also is recognized as a national leader on the use of videoconferencing. By using videoconferencing, the Court is able to enhance public safety and reduce overall Court and County costs. The Court continued to use videoconferencing between the Courthouse and the George W. Hill Correctional Facility.
ORPHANS’ COURT DIVISION
President Judge Zetusky presided over Orphans’ Court and in that capacity was responsible for resolving matters involving Adoptions, Decedents’ Estates, Incompetency Proceedings, and Guardianship Appointments.
GENERAL TRIAL DIVISION
The Family Law section again was led by the Honorable Maureen F. Fitzpatrick who served as Liaison Judge. Also hearing these matters were Judges Michael F.X. Coll; James P. Bradley; and James F. Nilon, Jr.
Masters, Conciliators and Hearing Officers continue to assist the Judges in expediting the resolution of Family Law cases. Family Law cases consist of Support, Equitable Distribution, Custody, Special Relief, Alimony Pendente Lite, Protection From Abuse and Divorce matters.
The Honorable Kevin F. Kelly heard the majority of Juvenile matters in 2006-2007. Senior Judge William R. Toal, Jr., also heard Juvenile matters during these years. Juvenile Court is the judicial agency responsible for determining questions of fact and law in cases where children between the ages of 10 and 17 are charged with violations of the criminal code.
The Honorable Joseph P. Cronin, Jr., presided over Municipal/Motion Hearing Law matters in 2007. Senior Judges William R. Toal, Jr.; Charles C. Keeler; George Koudelis; and Harry J. Bradley assisted in hearing Summary Appeals this year. Judge Joseph P. Cronin, Jr. heard such matters as summary appeals, eminent domain, and preliminary injunctions involving Local and State Government Agencies.
The Municipal/Motion Hearing Division handles Pre-Complaint and Post-Judgment Motions and Petitions, as well as Summary Appeals, License Suspension Appeals, Liquor License Appeals, Zoning/Land Use Appeals, Temporary Restraining Orders and Preliminary Injunctions.
During the past two years, the Honorable Frank T. Hazel continued to serve as the Liaison Judge for the Criminal Section. This section consists of Trial Judges Robert C. Wright, Kenneth A. Clouse, Patricia H. Jenkins, Ann A. Osborne, Barry C. Dozor, and Chad F. Kenney. Trial Judges in this division are assigned criminal cases only, and they are responsible for each assigned case once it is brought to issue and until its final disposition. The assigned Trial Judge oversees all matters related to the outcome of the criminal case. Trial Judges continue to expand the use of videoconferencing in the Criminal Justice System. The Court also continued to use such successful programs as Waiver of Arraignment, Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program, PA D.O.T. Highway Cleanup Pilot Program and Electronic Monitoring.
Beginning in 2006, the Senior Judges were assigned criminal cases. Senior Judges also assist in Bail Hearings and Guilty Pleas by videoconferencing.
In 2007, the Honorable James F. Proud served as Liaison Judge for the Civil Division. In addition to Judge Proud, this division consists of Trial Judges George A. Pagano; Charles B. Burr, II, who also serves as the Asbestos Liaison Judge responsible for the administration of asbestos cases in our Court system; and Kathrynann W. Durham. Trial Judges oversee all matters related to the outcome of the cases assigned to them. In 2006, the Honorable Robert A. Wright, who served as the Civil Case Settlement Master, ably assisted the Civil Judges.
The Honorable James F. Proud serves as the Supervising Judge of the Arbitration Program. All civil cases with claimed damages under $50,000 are processed through the program.
Under this program, all suits filed in the Office of Judicial Support are given an immediate arbitration hearing date not less than nine months from the date of filing. By local rule, all pre-trial motions must be filed 30 days prior to the date of the hearing. Arbitrators are selected randomly from a list of attorneys provided by the Delaware County Bar Association.
During the past two years, Judge Proud, with the assistance of the Civil Trial Judges, resolved thousands of related motions and stipulations. The Court also facilitated the resolution of tax appeals through the arbitration program.
In 2005, the Court, in conjunction with the Delaware County Bar Association, implemented a program whereby attorneys who sit as arbitrators are given the option of donating their compensation for serving on an arbitration panel to indigent people who are in need of legal services. The donated funds are forwarded to the Delaware County Bar Foundation and then are disbursed to Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania. This new program has been even more successful than anticipated. Actual donations for the year amounted to $3,000, which is double the original goal for the first year of $1,500