District Judge Gerald L. Feissner’s retirement plans have pushed up the timetable for eliminating the Freeland Magisterial District 11-3-05 over which he presides, Luzerne County President Judge Thomas F. Burke Jr. said Friday.
Approved last year by the state Supreme Court, the realignment plan was scheduled to take place on Jan. 1, 2018, at the end of Feissner’s term.
But it seems the office will outlast Feissner by a short time, at least: save for a few “loose ends,” Feissner will step down this week, Burke confirmed, while the Freeland court, isn’t scheduled to be eliminated until May 2.
“Some of the other magistrates will pitch in” until the new boundaries are formally in place, Burke said.
The convention with redistricting is to allow sitting justices to finish their terms before their offices are abolished, with the proviso that if the incumbent retires or leaves for some other reason, “they look to accelerate the realignment, and that is what happened in this instance,” Burke said.
Feissner’s Freeland office serves the boroughs of Freeland, Jeddo, Penn Lake Park and White Haven, as well as Dennison and Foster townships. Come May, the Supreme Court’s plan will see those municipalities assigned to three other districts:
• Hazle Township District Judge James M. Dixon will cover Jeddo.
• Sugarloaf Township District Judge Daniel O’Donnell will take on Freeland and Foster townships, while surrendering Hollenback Township to Shickshinny District Judge John E. Hasay.
• District Judge Ronald W. Swank will cover Penn Lake Park, White Haven and Dennison Township.
The changes are the result of the legally-required decennial redistricting process undertaken statewide by the Supreme Court, in collaboration with the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts and each district’s president judge, to best allocate court system resources.
“What they do, every 10 years, is study the magisterial office needs,” Burke said, a process that looks at a number of factors, including geographical changes and workload.
“In doing the study, they determined there was a need to eliminate one district in the 11th Judicial District,” which encompasses Luzerne County, he said.