Searer touts experience, Barron backs term limits for judges

LEWISTOWN – Two cross filed candidates for President Judge in Mifflin County fielded questions from the public during the Measure the Candidates event Wednesday night at the Mifflin County High School.

Assistant District Attorney Dave Barron said his 20 years of legal experience would help him bring a fresh perspective to the bench. Barron has also worked as a public defender.

Incumbent Timothy S. Searer said his 20 years experience on the bench make him the best candidate.

The candidates were first asked what their reasons are for wanting to be a judge in Mifflin County.

Barron again reiterated he would bring a fresh perspective to the court, steeped in his 20 years of legal experience.

Searer said he had been doing the job for the last 20 years and thinks he has done a pretty good job.

The candidates were then asked what changes they would make at the local level if elected.

Searer said it is was important to note that Mifflin County can’t just make changes “willy nilly,” the county is a part of Pennsylvania’s Unified Judicial System and most changes in court procedures come through that system. However, there have been specialized courts begun under his tenure.

Barron said he would like to see some changes made to custody court, mainly involving larger groups in an effort to give people a better idea of what to expect during court proceedings.

There was also a question regarding plea agreements and the perception that the district attorney’s office has been too lenient with defendants.

Barron said he felt District Attorney Dave Molek has done a good job in treating people fairly during his tenure, and he was proud to serve as an assistant district attorney.

Searer said as judge his involvement in the plea agreement is minimal, saying he only has the power to accept or deny a plea agreement.

Searer said if someone objects to a plea agreement, they should express that dissatisfaction with an officer of the court, such as the district attorney, defense attorney or the presiding judge in that particular case.

The candidates were also asked how the pending retirement of Judge Rick Williams will affect the court.

Searer said he was the sole judge in Mifflin County for the first 12 years he was in office.

Searer also said currently judicial vacancies are not being filled and that the seat left empty by Williams’ retirement would remain so until the 2015 election.

Barron said he anticipates there would be specially presiding judges during the vacancy and he feels he is capable of performing as the lone common pleas judge in the county.

Gun control was the next topic and both candidates expressed the importance of the Second Amendment, however, they did not give any further details as to their respective positions, citing judicial ethics.

Lastly, the candidates were asked if they plan to serve the full 10-year term if elected.

Barron said he plans to serve one full term and then retire because he believes in term limits.

Searer said there have been rumors floating around that he would not serve a full term if re-elected, but said that is not the case.

Searer said he has too much respect for the public and the office he currently serves to abandon the position in the middle of the term.

“It’s not going to happen, I will serve a full term,” Searer said.

In his closing, Searer said the office of President Judge is not a job to be passed around, simply to take turns and that experience counts for something.

Searer said he oversees 48 employees and has the legal knowledge and experience to do the job.

Barron said if elected judge he would be fair and impartial. He also reiterated his support for term limits.