The proposed realignment of the four Carbon County magisterial districts has been announced by court officials.
During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Roberta Brewster, district court administrator, provided information on the proposed changes to the districts. The realignment, if approved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court following the 30-day public comment period, calls for moving Mahoning Township out of the Jim Thorpe magisterial district and East Penn Township out of the Palmerton District and into Lansford District Judge Casimir Kosciolek's district.
Brewster said that the Carbon County Court of Common Pleas is recommending the changes because of population growth in the county, and higher than normal caseloads and workloads with some of the district judges.
"Carbon County has the largest caseload in all six-class counties," she said, noting that there are 24 six-class counties in Pennsylvania.
Last year, Carbon County's four district judges handled 22,985 cases.
"We are also in the 50th percentile in our workload, compared to all other six-class counties," Brewster added.
Following the meeting, President Judge Roger Nanovic explained that the realignment is required every decade following the federal government's census.
Under the Pennsylvania courts' codes, the president judge and court administrator for each county are required to review the census figures for the county; as well as look at caseloads and workloads of each of its magisterial district judges to see how they match up to other district judges in the county, as well as the state.
"In our county, we've determined, based on the average annual caseloads, that we're 76 percent higher than other magistrates within the state," Nanovic said. "In addition to a caseload analysis, (the Pennsylvania Supreme Court requested) that we do a workload analysis, which means that we have to weight the types of cases that a magistrate is doing."
Brewster noted that the weighted caseload was needed because district judges handle different types of cases.
For example, she said Judge Joseph Homanko of Weatherly handles the most traffic-related cases. Traffic cases take on average, 2.88 hours to complete, Brewster said. On the other hand, Judge Edward Lewis of Jim Thorpe had the largest number of criminal cases, which take on average 36 hours to complete.
"We determined that Judge Kosciolek is carrying the lightest caseload currently of all our magistrates," Nanovic said. "We've sought through this plan to reallocate and make a fair balance between all magistrates."
The realignment would even out the caseloads and workloads for Homanko, Lewis, Kosciolek and Judge William Kissner of Palmerton.
"The change should bring Kosciolek's workload from a negative-18 percent to a negative-5 percent," Brewster said. "Where Lewis had a positive-15 percent workload, this should bring it down to a positive-6 percent; and Kissner's to a positive-7 percent from a positive-12 percent."
A copy of the proposed magisterial district realignment has been posted to the Carbon courts website at www.carboncourts.com. Residents can review the proposed changes and submit written comments to Brewster at Roberta L. Brewster, District Court Administrator, Carbon County Courthouse, 4 Broadway, P.O. Box 131, Jim Thorpe, PA 18229-0131, by Monday, March 19. No emails or phone calls will be taken regarding comment on the proposal.
After March 19, Brewster will submit the proposal with any comments to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for approval. If approved, the new magisterial districts will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.