LEWISTOWN - Mifflin County President Judge Timothy S. Searer had two choices this year: Run for retention, or face the possibility of an opponent in the November election. He opted for the latter.
A retention vote would have asked voters if they would like to retain Searer as president judge for another 10-year term. If the voters rejected retaining Searer, he would have lost his seat. Gov. Tom Corbett might have stepped in to appoint someone to the position for a special two-year term, after which a special election would have been held in 2015.
Retention votes for common pleas court judges have a historically bad track record for the incumbent in Mifflin County. A former common pleas judge, Pete Searer, was ousted in 1991 after 5,140 voters said no to retaining him and 3,469 voted yes.
Judge Timothy S. Searer
The above scenario has become moot however, and now the question becomes, will someone challenge Searer, who has served more than 20 years on the bench? Several attorneys in the Mifflin County legal community have expressed an interest in running, however, none of them has publicly announced the intention to run.
Searer was elected to the bench in 1993 and re-elected in 2003.
"As I pledged when first elected, the citizens of Mifflin County deserve to select their common pleas judge by means of an election and avoid the possibility of a political appointment process. By my not seeking retention by referendum, the voters will again have that opportunity this year. I look forward to placing my record of judicial experience and demonstrated competence over time in the performance of the varied duties of a trial judge before the voters," Searer said.
Searer is a native of Lewistown. He recieved his Bachelor of Science degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1977 and his Juris Doctor from Duquesne University School of Law in 1980. He was admitted to practice in Pennsylvania in 1980, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in 1985 and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 1991. He had his private legal practice in Mifflin County from 1980 to 1994.
Searer also served as Mifflin County solicitor from 1984 to 1988 and as district attorney from 1988 to 1994. He is a member of the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges, the Mifflin County Bar Association and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He attended the General Jurisdiction Course at the National Judicial College, University of Nevada-Reno in 1994, and has served as a panel member for several programs of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, the educational arm of the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
"As president judge, I have consistently acted in the best interests of county taxpayers regarding the judiciary's budget and in the management of the judicial branch of county government. With the help of exceptional court administration and staff, we consistently operate the court within our means and without jeopardizing the right of Mifflin County citizens to prompt access to the judicial system and the resolution of their cases," he said.
Among the family court programs and procedures initiated during Searer's tenure as president judge are Group Custody Days, Parent Coordination and the Educational Program for Separated Parents. These initiatives assure prompt appearances before a judge in the emotional area of child custody, provide a quick and efficient means of resolving cases without long and contentious hearings and provide guidance to parents for helping their children adjust to the consequences of separated parents.
Searer said in the criminal court, there was the introduction of Central Court, Specialized Treatment Courts for both juveniles and adults, the opening of a Day Reporting Center and the increased use of monitoring technology, have all contributed to a more efficient use of resources and less expensive community-based programs. Additionally, these programs and others have assured the availability of jail cells and beds for Mifflin County prisoners who need to be incarcerated and for the county to generate more than $1 million annually by housing out-of county prisoners.
"I am proud of the accomplishments of our court during my term as its administrative judge. I believe we have earned the respect of the lawyers who appear before us as well as that of our peers on the common pleas bench," Searer said.
Searer was the first judge outside of Centre County to serve as Chief Administrative Judge of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Administrative Unit 2. This two-year appointment in 2009 came from the 18 judges and seven District Court Administrators in Central Pennsylvania counties comprising the unit.
In addition to all administrative duties, Searer carries a full caseload in all court divisions: civil, criminal, family and orphan's court.
"In judging cases and controversies, I have an established record that would withstand inquiry by any reasonable standard for evaluating judicial candidates. I have demonstrated my knowledge of established legal principles and procedures. My ability to interpret and apply them to specific factual situations is well documented. My appellate record on the small percentage of decisions from which appeals have been taken is excellent. My decisions and sentences in criminal matters have never been reversed. Appellate courts have commented in their opinions about the thorough manner in which I have analyzed and disposed of cases appealed to their courts," Searer said.
Searer and his wife, Susan (Zewe) Searer, are the parents of two daughters and a son. Over the years, Searer has remained actively involved in community and civic affairs. He is a past president of the Lewistown Kiwanis Club and former board member of the United Way of Mifflin-Juniata. He is a member of Trinity United Church of Christ and a past president of the Church Council. He has actively supported various youth and school activities and has coached youth baseball and basketball.
"My community experiences provide an awareness of and sensitivity to people and their problems that can be as helpful to the decision-making process as legal knowledge," Searer added.
"All of my decisions are made openly and transparently. Our citizens deserve an independent and impartial judiciary. It is my hope that the citizens of our county will grant me the privilege of serving another term as their judge. If that is their choice, I will continue to adhere to the high professional standards I have consistently maintained in my 32 years as an attorney and judge," Searer said.