W E GREETED the swearing-in of a half dozen new Luzerne County judges late last week much like the farmer welcomes taking a shower after the ickiest of barnyard chores. Begone, muck! Away, stench!
Corruption can't be scrubbed off, so the ceremonial appointment of these six men and women to the county bench will have to suffice as a kind of final cleansing after its drawn-out, sordid judicial scandals. We, and no doubt other county residents, hope that January 2012 marks not only the launch of a new year, but also a new era in this court's conduct, efficiency and esteem.
The sextet selected by voters in November now carries those sizable but attainable expectations on its shoulders. As of Friday morning, after taking an oath, each retains before his or her name the title "judge." They are Lesa Gelb, Richard Hughes, Fred Pierantoni, Jennifer Rogers, Joseph Sklarosky Jr. and Michael Vough.
With the title comes enormous responsibility. And power.
The new jurists vowed during their respective campaigns to wield that power for public good, not personal gain. Each is afforded the opportunity over the course of a 10-year term to serve every day with honor, to rule impartially, to behave righteously.
No less should be expected. No less tolerated.
The county's Court of Common Pleas had been hobbled in recent years, first by internal squabbling, then the removal of three bad judges who violated the law and the public's trust. Two of them, Mark A. Ciavarella and Michael T. Conahan, brought international attention and no shortage of derision on the county for their roles in the "kids-for-cash" scheme.
These vacancies and subsequent turnover heaped a tremendous workload on other judges, including interim and senior jurists. Our appreciation goes to Judges Joseph Cosgrove, Joseph Van Jura and Lewis Wetzel, all of whom ably handled their temporary assignments, which end this year.
Finally with a full complement of 10 judges, the Luzerne County bench this year can more fully separate itself from its stinky past. If so, we all will breathe easier.