Attorney offers his view of the local judicial race

To the editor:

A native of Belleville, I continue to follow events in Mifflin County, despite living in Berks County for the past 35 years.

My career path took me to law school and then to a legal practice for 30 years, during which I litigated cases of varying types. I am currently serving as the Executive Director of the Berks County Bar Association. I have appeared before and worked with many judges since entering the legal profession.

From afar, I view the current judicial race in Mifflin County as very troubling. While I realize it has become a Mifflin County tradition for a sitting common pleas judge to run for re-election instead of retention, as the Pennsylvania Constitution allows, the practice is unfortunate. Partisan politics has no place in determining whether a judge should remain on the bench. The issue should simply be whether the judge’s entire 10-year record is one of competence and fairness – yes or no.

To argue that a judge is not to be retained on the basis of term limits is totally inappropriate. A judge interprets the law and renders a decision based upon the law, not public opinion. One may claim that limiting the number of terms in office has a place in deciding the fate of legislators – those who must respond to the will of the people – but judges should not be subject to the whims of the majority. A sitting judge must only be denied a new term because of incompetence and certainly not because he has 20 years of experience.

Mifflin County is blessed to have President Judge Timothy S. Searer sitting on its bench. His experience in rendering judicial decisions should be valued and not cited as a reason for removal.

Donald F. Smith Jr.