Court reporter seeks district judge seat held by mom for 50+ years
Donna Bealing Elicker spent countless hours of her childhood in the magisterial district judge office that serves Penn and West Manheim townships — and she hopes to spend significantly more time there starting next year.
That's because Elicker, 57, of West Manheim Township, is running for the district-judge seat her mother, Margaret Klinedinst Bria, held for more than 50 years.
"It's so rewarding as a daughter to see how people respect her," Elicker said. "She started in 1966 as a justice of the peace, then she ran for the (district justice) position in 1970."
In Pennsylvania, justices of the peace were later designated as district justices, but the preferred term now is district judge or, more formally, magisterial district judge.
"I was exposed to the whole system," she said, both because she would hang out at her mom's office and because sometimes her mother's work came to them.
"We used to have an office in our house that (police) would bring people to at night," to be arraigned on new charges, Elicker said. "I've been around the profession my whole life."
Her experience with the courts didn't end when she became an adult.
Familiar face: Elicker is a well-known court reporter in York, Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin and Lancaster counties, meaning she's created the official transcripts for countless trials, hearings and other court matters. She works in federal court, county courts and district-judge offices, as well as for attorneys in legal proceedings including depositions and arbitration hearings.
"I have the unique experience of working for both the prosecution and the defense, and remaining impartial," she said. "I have found that good people do bad things and bad people do good things. I would keep an open mind and judge a case impartially, without any preconceived notions, and apply the law to the facts."
She was hired by the York County Court of Common Pleas in 1979, then hired by then-Dauphin County Judge Warren G. Morgan in 1981, she said. Elicker left Morgan's court in 1987, after the birth of her daughter, and has worked for herself since. She's the owner of Elicker & Associates Reporting.
Elicker said her mother is her campaign chair — "of course" — and that a number of her professional peers have urged her to run for the district-judge position.
Background: Born and raised in Hanover, Elicker graduated from South Western High School in 1977 and from Central Penn College in 1979 with an associate's degree in specialized business.
While she was still in high school, her guidance counselor suggested she become a court reporter because of her considerable typing skills, she said. She took his advice and said she's loved the work.
As a freelance court reporter, Elicker stays busy.
"I work seven days a week now, and I'm constantly on deadline," she said.
Elicker is a seven-year member of the South Western High School Alumni Band, where she plays clarinet.
"I was a member of the band in high school, and my daughter was a member of the marching band," she said. Daughter Kimberly, 29, now lives in Manhattan.
'A community thing': "I became very close with other parents by going to band competitions," Elicker said. "Some of them are my high-school friends, some of them are my daughter's high-school friends. It's a community thing — we get a really good crowd and it's a lot of fun."
Elicker has belonged to a book club for more than a decade, and she travels to New York City when she can, so she and Kimberly can catch Broadway shows.
She and her dog, an 8-year-old Shetland sheepdog named Lily, are regular fixtures at Codorus State Park.
"Most days I try to go," she said. "It's my favorite thing in the world — it gives me energy to get out in nature and breathe the air, and get away from the chaos and the deadlines."
Miner is retiring: Elicker is running for the position held by District Judge James Miner.
He's been district judge for more than 20 years and will retire in January 2018, he told The York Dispatch.
Miner, 68, said he'll consider being a senior district judge but said he and his wife also intend to travel.
For more information about Elicker and her election bid, visit the Campaign to Elect Donna Elicker Facebook page.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.