WILKES-BARRE — State Rep. Tarah Toohil Monday said now is the right time for her to seek a seat on the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas.
Toohil 41 of Drums, has represented the 116th Legislative District as a Republican since January 2011. She would cross-file to run for judge.
She said if she is elected to the county bench, she would be able to continue to serve out her term in the legislature until Dec. 31, 2021. She would then take the oath as judge in January 2022. A special election would be set to fill her legislative house seat in the early spring of 2022.
“With two judicial vacancies needing to be filled, now is the right time for me to transition from the legislature to the judiciary,” Toohil said. “I have spent my time in public service enhancing the lives of our senior citizens and fighting for child protection. During these difficult COVID-19 times, our families need a strong, independent judge on the bench. Experts predict that the societal ramifications of the prolonged time period of this pandemic will have a great negative cost.”
Toohil said families are suffering with increased alcohol and substance abuse, joblessness, depression and mental health issues.
“Many of those struggling in the pandemic will find themselves coming before the court system,” Toohil said. “I will utilize diversionary, treatment, and prevention programs to better address the needs of each family that comes before the Court in order to improve recidivism rates and reduce crime.”
Toohil said she has worked extensively with veterans and she would be committed to ensuring that Veterans Courts programs are enhanced.
“These programs would allow a multi-pronged approach to issues that impact veterans who come in contact with the court system and better utilize housing and employment opportunities,” Toohil said.
Last week, Toohil said she began circulating petitions for her candidacy for judge.
“As a judge for our county I will continue to help families, but in a different way,” she said. “My entire life has been about hard work and a devotion to helping others. As your Judge in the Court of Common Pleas, I will be able to dedicate all of my time to the issues that impact families in our court system. I am committed to being a fair, tough and compassionate judge.”
Toohil said at a young age, she dedicated her life to child protection and throughout her work in the legislature, she has been known on the state and national level as a champion for children. She also said she has been able to represent senior citizens who are many times taken advantage of and left struggling.
“I have answered the call on a wide array of issues such as helping crime victims, dealing with home foreclosures, and assisting grandparents raising grandchildren,” Toohil said. “The elderly will never feel voiceless or ignored in my courtroom.”
In the state legislature, Toohil has served on the Judiciary Committee for 10 years, where she successfully fought to root out corruption in Harrisburg, increase penalties for drug dealers, and to impose tougher penalties for those who victimize the elderly and children.
Toohil said she has worked extensively in volunteer work and charity and is a co-founder of Brandon’s Forever Home, a non-profit which does charitable work for children experiencing homelessness, abuse and neglect.
Toohil and her husband, Scot Burkhardt, reside in Drums with their children.
Toohil joins a field of candidates that includes Attorney James Bobeck, a former Luzerne County Councilman; Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis; Pittston-area Magisterial District Judge Alexandra Kokura Kravitz; and West Pittston attorney Laura Dennis.
County voters will select nominees for two vacant county Court of Common Pleas judge seats in the May 18 primary election, with the winning nominees advancing to the November general.
One seat is open because Judge Thomas Burke will reach the mandatory 75 retirement age this December. The second vacancy stems from Judge William Amesbury’s decision to retire and transition to senior judge status.
Both judge seats would be on the ballot for full 10-year terms.
Toohil was re-elected to the legislature in November for a sixth two-year term.
Judicial candidates typically cross-file to run on both party tickets in the primary, which means anywhere from two to four contenders will advance to the November general.