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About five years ago, York County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh circled the end of 2015 on his calendar to signify the date he would hang up his robe and retire.

But two other county judges โ€” Thomas H. Kelley VI and John W. Thompson Jr. โ€” also set to retire at year's end. And with Judge Craig T. Trebilcock set to spend all of next year on active duty with the U.S. Army, Linebaugh announced Wednesday he is delaying his retirement until further notice.

"I couldn't, in good conscience, leave the bench," Linebaugh said. "This was a very emotional decision for me"

Shortage: Despite the addition of two judges who will be elected in the November municipal election, there will only be 11 judges working in the judicial center come January.

That's far fewer than the 15 full-time judges the county is approved to have.

To help fill the void, Linebaugh will handle civil cases next year, when he relinquishes his president judge title to Judge Joseph C. Adams. Adams had asked Linebaugh to delay his retirement.

Apart from bringing in senior judges for trial terms, Linebaugh will be the only judge hearing civil cases. The strain of the judge shortage is felt across the bench, he said.

"All the judges are working so hard," he said.

Gov. Tom Wolf could appoint someone to a judgeship, which must be approved by the state Senate, but no efforts have been made to do so.

Commissioners: York County commissioners praised Linebaugh for delaying his retirement to help alleviate the judge shortage

"Judge Linebaugh's stand-up guy. He always has been, and this is another example of that," said Commissioner Chris Reilly.

Doug Hoke, vice president commissioner, said having Linebaugh stay on will help ensure justice is doled out in a timely manner.

"I think he realizes the number of judges we'll be down to will have an impact," he said.

Linebaugh was elected to the bench in 1997 and was retained for a second 10-year term in 2007.

"We certainly appreciate his staying on with all his knowledge," said Steve Chronister, president commissioner

Linebaugh, 68, will be forced into retirement at the end of 2017 when he turns 70, the age at which judges in Pennsylvania are required to retire.

But Linebaugh said he has set a tentative new retirement date of late next year.

โ€” Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.

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