Three York County judges up for retention


In addition to electing two new judges to the York County Court of Common Pleas in November, voters also will decide if three judges will remain on the bench.

Judges John S. Kennedy, Maria Musti Cook and Joseph C. Adams will go through the retention process this year, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

When voters head to their polling places on Tuesday, Nov. 3, they will see simple "yes" or "no" options on the ballot to retain each of the judges.

Kennedy, 56, of Spring Garden Township, was first elected in 1995 and successfully sought retention in 2005. Musti Cook, 57, of York City, and Adams, 47, of Manchester Township, were elected in 2005, according to the Department of State.

Retention: In Pennsylvania, common pleas judges face retention every 10 years — the length of a term.

York County voters typically approve retention for local judges, said Nikki Suchanic, director of the county's elections and voter registration office.

"I don't recall a judge ever not being retained," she said. "At least in the county."

But voters have failed to grant judges retention elsewhere in the state.

In 2009, voters removed former Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. from the bench in the wake of the "kids for cash" scandal, even though he was not directly involved. Two other Luzerne County judges — Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan — were convicted of sentencing minors to time at two privately owned youth detention centers in exchange for cash from the owner.

Statewide, former state Supreme Court justice Russell Nigro failed to gain retention in 2005, said Wanda Murren, spokeswoman for the Department of State.

When a sitting judge isn't retained by voters, the governor appoints a replacement who must be approved by the Senate, she said.

Seeking: York County voters also will decide in the general election which of three judge candidates will earn a seat on the bench.

York County solicitor Mike Flannelly, 59, of Spring Garden Township, secured enough primary votes to appear on the ballot as a Republican and a Democrat. He'll square off against York City-based attorney Chris Menges, 64, of Warrington Township, on the Republican ballot and city attorney Kathleen Prendergast, 52, on the Democratic side.

The trio beat out four other candidates in the primary.

There are two seats open, created by the retirements of Judge Sheryl Ann Dorney and Judge Penny L. Blackwell, who is serving as a senior judge.

Common Pleas judges are paid $176,572 annually.

— Reach Greg Gross at