It is my pleasure to submit the statistical report of the Mifflin County Court of Common Pleas outlining the business of the court and its various divisions. As we look to the future, we are mindful of the fact the courts exist not just for judges and lawyers. The content of this report is intended to provide the public, as well as the other branches of Mifflin County government, with a better understanding of the scope and work of the court.
I hope it will be clear to all who examine this report that the court offices are working hard to keep pace with the case volumes presented to them. I am especially proud of all the hardworking employees in the various departments who continuously look for innovative ways to resolve the complex issues confronting them while keeping in mind budgetary concerns and increasing costs.
Senior Judge Williams, Judge Gingrich and I want to express our thanks and appreciation for the efforts of District Court Administrator, Melissa Fultz; Deputy District Court Administrator, Christine Wolfkiel; Case Coordinators, Rachel Burchfield and Cindy Leister; Court Reporters, Alice Arnold and Jan Smith; and Law Clerks, Alina Reed, Esq., and Kristi Sutton, Esq. They, and the staffs of court-related offices, provide invaluable services to the court and citizens of Mifflin County. I hope this statistical report will provide them with some well-deserved recognition.
David W. Barron, President Judge
The Court of Common Pleas of Mifflin County had been a one-judge judicial district from its inception until January 2006 when Judge Rick Williams began his term. New and more complex causes of action and a more litigious society continue to place demands upon judicial resources. A comparison of Mifflin County’s caseload to those of similarly situated counties would indicate, in some instances, our case-to-judge ratio exceeds those counties with two or more judges.
Salary and fringe benefits of judges are established by the Pennsylvania Legislature and are paid by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth reimburses Mifflin County $70,000 for each judgeship and it is the responsibility of the counties to provide the funds necessary to operate the courts. Considerable revenues are generated by the court system in the form of fines, costs and supervision fees.
While a President Judge must necessarily address administrative issues, the court’s primary function is to resolve disputes and decide cases. President Judge Barron and Senior Judge Williams preside over nonjury and jury trials in both the civil and criminal divisions. They also preside over sentencing hearings, omnibus pre-trial hearings, arguments, ARD hearings, guilty plea hearings, juvenile court, support court, appeals from summary convictions and drivers’ license suspensions, tax appeals, adoptions, equity matters, family court and various other matters.
The divisions comprising the Court of Common Pleas are:
A. Civil Division – This includes personal property and personal injury lawsuits; contract disputes; equity and injunction cases; family court issues of divorce, custody, support, equitable division of marital property and other related matters.
B. Criminal Division – This includes all cases where an alleged crime is charged by the Commonwealth as well as appeals from summary convictions.
C. Juvenile Division – This includes all issues addressing alleged dependent and delinquent children.
D. Orphans’ Court Division – This includes adoptions, alleged incapacitated persons, nonprofit corporations and estate matters.
THE HONORABLE DAVID W. BARRON
President Judge Barron was elected in November 2013 for a term of ten years starting January 6, 2014. He is a graduate of Lewistown Senior High School, Tulane University and Widener University School of Law.
In addition to his private practice, he served as Assistant District Attorney for two years until his election as President Judge. He is married to Lentha (Wilt) Barron. They have one son and one daughter.
Judge Williams was elected in November 2005 for a term of ten years starting January 3, 2006. He retired in October of 2013 and was granted Senior Judge status starting October 15, 2013. He is a graduate of Chief Logan High School, Washington & Jefferson College and Cornell Law School.
He was in the general practice of law from 1976 to 1982 and served four consecutive six-year terms as Magisterial District Judge until his election as the second Judge to the Mifflin County Court of Common Pleas. He is a past president and secretary of the McVeytown Lions Club, a member of Ellen Chapel Church, and vice chairman of the Mifflin County Chapter of Pennsylvania Cleanways.
He is married to Mindy (Campbell) Williams. They have two sons and a daughter.
THE HONORABLE AARON L. GINGRICH
Judge Gingrich was elected in November 2015 for a term of ten years starting January 4, 2016. He is a graduate of Lewistown Senior High School, DIckinson College and Widener University School of Law.
He was in the general practice of law from 2000 to 2015 working with his father at Houck & Gingrich Law Offices; he was elected in 2009 to serve a six-year term as Magisterial District Judge beginning January 2010. He is married to Shauna (Parchey) Gingrich. They have two daughters.
Historically, the responsibility for court administration and management of the departments within the judicial branch of government has rested with the President Judge. In 1975, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court established the minimum duties and responsibilities of district court administrators statewide.
Melissa Fultz has served as District Court Administrator since December 2002. She has over 20 years of legal and administrative experience and served as Deputy Court Administrator previously to becoming District Court Administrator.
Although the duties vary from day to day, the District Court Administrator is responsible for case-flow management, scheduling, court personnel, space utilization and budget management. Her office addresses all administrative functions of the court and must adapt court procedures and policies to accommodate changes mandated by the President Judge, the Commonwealth and by rule changes.
Christine Wolfkiel has served as Deputy District Court Administrator since December 2002. She has 23 years’ experience working within the magisterial district judge courts.
Mrs. Wolfkiel performs specialized services for all court-related functions. Her duties also include interacting with attorneys and providing administrative support to the District Court Administrator and to the President Judge.
Rachel Burchfield served as Administrative Assistant from December 2004 until January 2008 and currently serves as Case Coordinator. Christine Stuck was hired in October 2018 to fill a vacant Case Coordinator position.
They are responsible for all correspondence and issues relating to the Education Program for Separated Parents and jury management and assist court administration with case flow management. Much of their time is dedicated to interacting with attorneys and responding to inquiries from members of the general public. Mrs. Burchfield and Mrs. Leister provide valuable administrative support to the court staff.
Mrs. Mast and Mrs. Smith stenographically record every word of testimony and colloquy for all hearings and trials in the Court of Common Pleas. These records are transcribed in certain circumstances or where requested by a party.
They also maintain a record of exhibits entered into evidence and arrange for their storage. Their attendance is required at all times during a jury’s deliberation and upon return of the verdict.
The law clerks assist the Judges by preparing cases with complex issues for argument and decision. When the court is required to write an opinion explaining its decision, the law clerk and Judge discuss the decision; the law clerk prepares a draft of the opinion consistent with the Judge’s direction. They also assist the Judges by researching legal issues as they arise during court proceedings.
The law clerks occasionally perform legal research for the Magisterial District Judges. Further responsibilities include assisting attorneys and others in accessing legal databases and assisting the court in unsealing, inspecting and disposing of requests to open sealed adoption records for the purpose of ascertaining information on biological and family medical conditions. The law clerks also serve as Mental Health Review Officers.
Joann Baker, Peggy Dearing, Louise Flood, Jan Headings and Mike Lamarca are responsible for notifying the court when everyone is assembled for hearings or trials and for opening and closing court proceedings. They maintain order in the courtroom and secure sequestered witnesses.
They are also responsible for the care and comfort of jurors. They ensure no person has inappropriate communication with jurors.
The link below provides the 2018 caseload statistics for the Mifflin County Court of Common Pleas and a comparison with the average caseload of other 6th Class Counties from 2008 to 2018.