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Attorneys representing abused and neglected children receive new training tool

HARRISBURG—A new training video, believed to be the first of its kind in the country, will assist guardians ad litem—attorneys who represent the specific legal needs of abused and neglected children in dependency courts.  
 
The video is another tool to help the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reach its goal of moving abused and neglected children to safe and permanent homes without delay.

“Guardians ad litem who represent children in dependency matters have very specific responsibilities,” Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Max Baer said.  “The training is designed to ensure that abused and neglected children, those often least capable of articulating their own interests before the court, are receiving high-quality legal representation.  We are confident these efforts will significantly help in our overall goal to ensure that every child grows up in a safe, nurturing and permanent family.”
 
The specialized training for guardians ad litem meets requirements of the Federal Child Abuse Treatment and Prevention Act and will allow Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare (DPW) to continue receiving approximately $950,000 annually of critical federal dollars supporting the services to abused/neglected children and their families.
 
New guardians ad litem will be required to complete the pre-service video training if the county wants to receive future funding from the DPW’s Office of Children and Youth to help pay for guardian ad litem services in dependency cases.  The training video was developed by the Supreme Court’s Office of Children and Families in the Courts (OCFC) in conjunction with DPW's Office of Children, Youth and Families, and a Legal Representation Workgroup which included judges, attorneys, and children welfare professionals, co-chaired by Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Kelley Streib and Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Administrative Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy.
 
The training video follows OCFC’s 2011 efforts to provide specific training to more than 600 attorneys who had been representing children and parents in dependency cases.
 

Judicial Conduct Board releases 2011 annual report

From Joseph A. Massa, Jr., Chief Counsel, Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania

The Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania has issued its 2011 Annual Report which is available on line at the Board’s website: www.jcbpa.org. The Report provides comprehensive information on the Board’s authority and procedures, statistical data on Board cases, summaries of disciplinary action, and an index of all pending case filings, identified only by case number.
 
The Board received 711 complaints during the 2011 calendar year reflecting a greater scrutiny of judicial conduct.

Notice from the Register of Wills

Michael Ginsburg, Register of Wills for Westmoreland County is pleased to announce his office is accepting credit and debit cards for all fees excluding inheritance tax payments. Mike Ginsburg further reports that his office will gladly accept card payments over the phone for office services that had previously required the mailing of a personal check. This will dramatically improve the turn around time for constituents receiving genealogy information, short certificates and certified copies of marriage licenses. For your convenience Visa, Master Card and Discover is accepted.

Notice from the Clerk of Courts

Please be advised that the following Order was issued by the President Judge Gary P. Caruso on July 9, 2012

AND NOW, to wit, this 9th day of July, 2012 I direct, pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 9728(g) that, effective on the 1st day of August, 2012, a one-time administrative fee of Eleven Dollars and fifty-cents ($11.50) be imposed in all cases disposed of by the Court. Payments of any and all court-imposed financial obligations must be allocated to satisfy the payment of this fee, thereafter, allocation is administered by the Clerk of Courts as required.

Westmoreland Law Journal rates to increase August 1, 2012

The WBA Board of Directors approved an increase in advertising rates for the Westmoreland Law Journal, effective August 1, 2012. Download a new rate card at www.westbar.org/wlj, or call 724-834-7260 to have one mailed to you. The new rates are as follows:

  • Change of Name* > $100.00
  • Corporate Notice* (Articles of Incorporation, Certificate of Authority, Certificate of Organization, Dissolution, etc.) > $100.00
  • Estate** (effective July 1, 2012) > $100.00
  • Fictitious Name* > $100.00
  • Trust* (Runs three consecutive weeks) > $100.00
  • Other Notices > $2.50 per line, per week
  • Proof of Publication > $3.00 each
  • Annual Subscription (E-mail or regular mail delivery) > $52.00

* Cost includes one proof of publication. This notice must be PREPAID. Make check payable to: Westmoreland Law Journal.
** Through Register of Wills office when filing Petition for Letters. Cost includes one proof of publication.

Notice on Civil/Orphans' Court Motions

Judge Anthony G. Marsili will not be hearing civil or orphans’ court motions on Friday, July 13, 2012.

President Judge Gary P. Caruso, Judge Anthony G. Marsili, and Judge Richard E. McCormick, Jr., will not be hearing civil or orphans’ court motions on Friday, July 27, 2012.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court strengthens witness protection

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is allowing indicting grand juries to be used statewide in certain cases to enhance safeguards against witness intimidation.

Under a new set of Rules of Criminal Procedure, an indicting grand jury would be permitted in lieu of preliminary hearings in cases in which witness intimidation has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur. Judicial districts abandoned the use of indicting grand juries nearly 20 years ago in favor of other procedural options authorized under an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution. The new rules permit their resumption.

Any of Pennsylvania’s 60 judicial districts could petition the Supreme Court for approval to use the new procedures under the rules that take effect in 180 days. Once Supreme Court approval is given to a district, a prosecutor could seek approval of the president judge on a case-by-case basis to use an indicting grand jury, but only in cases involving witness intimidation.

“The intimidation of witnesses in criminal proceedings threatens the integrity of the criminal justice system and puts justice at risk,” Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille said in announcing the new rules. “Providing more flexibility to ensure the safety of witnesses who come forward to testify in cases involving violent acts recognizes their personal safety and promotes greater trust and confidence in the judicial system.”

A “grand” jury is so named because 23 jurors and up to 15 alternates would serve on the panel, rather than the standard 12-member trial jury. An indicting grand jury determines whether to indict the defendant, so that the defendant would face trial in the Court of Common Pleas. The new rules do not impact the defendant’s constitutional right to confrontation since the defendant is still entitled to confront his or her accusers at trial. Indicting grand juries are used in a number of other states and federal courts.

The effort to curtail witness intimidation came from a panel of legal experts the Supreme Court appointed to address issues challenging the Philadelphia criminal court system. The commission of judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers, led by Supreme Court Justice Seamus P. McCaffery, recommended re-instituting the indicting grand jury in Pennsylvania as a way to address the problem of witness intimidation.

The comprehensive set of new rules and related rules changes incorporating the recommended procedures was developed by the Supreme Court’s advisory Criminal Procedural Rules Committee.

(For a copy of the new rules: http://www.pacourts.us/T/SupremeCourt/SupremePostings.htm)

Register of Wills increases fees effective July 1, 2012

Effective July 1, 2012, the Register of Wills fee schedule goes into effect. The new fee schedules will be available June 15th. Feel free to pick one up at the Register of Wills office or they can mail them to you. Call Cindy at 724.830.3183 for a copy or for any questions.

Notice on Civil/Orphans' Court Motions

Judge McCormick, Jr., will hear motions on June 8, 2012, for Judge Caruso. On June 15, 2012, Judge Caruso will not hear motions.

Notice from the Register of Wills

Change to Renunciation Forms regarding an estate effective immediately. If the renunciation is filled out in the office, no notarization is required. However, if the form is filled out prior to coming into the office, the form must be properly notarized.

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