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Pennsylvania Supreme Court piloting diversion program for veterans

From the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts

HARRISBURG — Military veterans facing incarceration for minor criminal charges would have the option of supervised treatment under a pilot program of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

The Magisterial District Judge Diversion program, aimed at veteran offenders, was initiated in Centre County in November and will be piloted in Monroe and Westmoreland counties starting Jan. 1.

Believed to be the only one of its kind in the country, the diversionary program is being tested in the three diverse counties with the goal of developing blueprints for possible expansion statewide. Guidelines were developed by a committee established by the AOPC.

“This program has been under development for over three years and is another step in the work we have been doing here in the courts of Pennsylvania, in partnership with the Veterans Administration, to assist returning veterans with their struggles to readjust,” said Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery. “What we hope to do here is divert these veterans into treatment before their problems escalate to behaviors that would result in a case getting to the Court of Common Pleas.

“The earlier we intervene, the better for the veteran, the better for their family, the better for their community, and the better for the system.”

The move follows implementation of a similar statewide Veterans Court program in the Common Pleas Courts that also offers supervised treatment as an alternative to incarceration. By introducing earlier intervention at the magisterial district judge level, program planners hope to curb behavior from worsening among veterans with drug and alcohol abuse, anger management and post-traumatic stress disorder issues. In a collaborative arrangement with the state court system, the Veterans Administration provides treatment services.

A veteran charged with summary offenses — such as disorderly conduct, public drunkenness or harassment — could opt for supervised treatment, with the county district attorney’s office approval. The charges would be dismissed at the end of a successful six-month treatment period. If a defendant doesn’t comply with the terms of the program, the charges would be restored.

Pennsylvania has more than one million veterans statewide — including Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille and Justice McCaffery. Justice McCaffery is the Supreme Court’s liaison to the state’s problem-solving courts program, and has been a leading force in establishing Veterans Courts throughout the Commonwealth.

Notice from the Butler County Register of Wills & Clerk of Orphans' Court

From Judith Moser, MS, Butler County Register of Wills & Clerk of Orphans’ Court

December 12, 2012: Due to an increase in the instances of returned personal and non-attorney checks, the Butler County Register of Wills & Clerk of Orphans’ Court, finds it necessary to establish the following policy for payment of all fees and monies due the Register.

Beginning March 1, 2013 and thereafter, the only acceptable form of payment will be a certified check, attorney check, attorney trust fund check or U.S. money order.

Attorneys should notify their clients of this pending policy revision. 

Notice from the Court Administrator

Conflict Counsel Positions Available

The Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas will be hiring conflict counsel to work under a contract at the rate of $40,000 on the assignment of 75 court cases per year. Conflict Counsel will represent criminal case defendants for whom it is a conflict for the Public Defender’s office to represent. Conflict counsel will not represent defendants who are charged with murder and will not be required to handle appeals under the Post Conviction Relief Act. Interested attorney may apply by sending a letter of interest to the Court Administrator’s office, Attention: Tami Silvis, as soon as possible.

Notice on Civil/Orphans' Court Motions

Judge McCormick, Jr., will not be hearing civil or orphans’ court motions on Friday, December 21, 2012. Counsel should make arrangements to present motions on a prior or subsequent Friday.

Notice from the Court Administrator

Attention Family Court Attorneys

As a reminder all Custody Complaints, Custody Modification and Contempt Petitions, and Emergency Custody petitions that are filed with the the Prothonotary’s office should include a copy for the Family Court Administrator along with the original. The Prothonotary’s office will forward the copy to the Family Court Administrator. Thank you for your cooperation and assistance in this matter.

New forms break down language barriers for families

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s Judiciary is offering protection from abuse forms in multiple languages to help address domestic violence issues in families who are not proficient in English.

The new forms underscore the state court system’s long-standing commitment to promote equal access to justice regardless of racial, gender and ethnic background. Posted online to provide easy access, the forms are an important part of civil court proceedings, and failure to understand and complete them properly can delay or invalidate proceedings.

“Court proceedings can be hard to understand, even if you speak English,” said Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille. “These new forms help ensure that all citizens have full access to the court system and its resources by being able to access documents in the person’s native language.”

More than a dozen forms related to the process of obtaining protection orders — in 10 of the state’s most common non-English languages — now are posted on the Unified Judicial System’s website: www.pacourts.us. Visitors can access the forms at the bottom of the home page under the area labeled “Forms.”

The forms are available in: Arabic, Simplified Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Khmer (Cambodian), Korean, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian and Vietnamese. The documents are in a bilingual format with the left hand column in English, and the right hand side in the foreign language.

Senior Judge Courtroom now open

From Paul Kuntz, Court Administrator

REMINDER: The Senior Judge Courtroom, located between the Pro Bono Office and the Lawyers Meeting Room on the fourth floor of the Courthouse Annex, is now open. Most senior judge proceedings will be held in this new facility. Please check your Notice and report to the Senior Judge Courtroom if so indicated.

Notice from the Court Administrator

Attention Criminal Defense Attorneys

As a reminder, if your client is accepting a tentative plea, ARD, etc. that was offered at the Magisterial District Judge level, both you and your client MUST appear on the scheduled formal arraignment date. This is the date that the plea, ARD, etc. will be taken by the Judge.

Notice on Civil/Orphans' Court motions

President Judge Caruso will not be hearing civil/orphans’ court motions on Friday, September 28, 2012, or Friday, October 19, 2012. Counsel should make arrangements to present motions on prior or subsequent Fridays.

Judge McCormick, Jr., will be hearing civil/orphans’ court motions on Thursday, September 27, 2012, at 9:00 a.m. and not on Friday, September 28, 2012.

Judge Marsili will not be hearing civil/orphans’ court motions on Friday, September 28, 2012. Counsel should make arrangements to present motions on a prior or subsequent Friday.

Judge McCormick, Jr., will hear motions on October 5, 2012, for President Judge Caruso.

Supreme Court redistricting hearing will be telecast live by PCN

HARRISBURG – The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania announced that its entire Sept. 13 oral argument session, which includes hearings on the state’s second legislative redistricting plan and the voter ID law, will be televised live on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN). The hearings are being held in the court’s Philadelphia City Hall courtroom.

Oral arguments will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Supreme Court’s Philadelphia courtroom, room 456 of City Hall. Strict decorum will be observed. Because of limited seating, observers will be admitted on a first come, first served basis. Once the courtroom is full, those not admitted may wait in line to take a seat as those who were seated leave.

The sessions held on the 11th and 12th will be taped for future airing by PCN.

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