Wolf nominates two York women for county judge posts

Greg Gross
  • Wolf named nominees to fill 30 judge vacancies across the state.
  • Two of the vacancies are on the York County Court of Common Pleas.

York County is poised to have a full complement of judges for the first time in about three years after Gov. Tom Wolf and Senate leadership announced a slate of judicial nominees, including two York women, to fill vacancies.

York City attorney Kathleen Prendergast, 53, and federal prosecutor Christy Fawcett, 63, were nominated to fill the vacancies on the 15-seat county Court of Common Pleas bench.

"I don't think I'll believe it until I'm actually sworn in," Prendergast said.

In March, Wolf put out an open call for applicants to come forward to fill the state's 30 open seats for county Court of Common Pleas, magisterial district court, state Supreme Court, state Superior Court and state Commonwealth Court.

Prendergast has stood for election to the bench three times; the most recent was last year, when she lost to former county solicitor Michael W. Flannelly and Warrington Township attorney N. Christopher Menges.

If confirmed, Fawcett's tenure on the county bench would be a homecoming of sorts. She was an assistant district attorney, serving in the office from 1982 to 1997, when she took a job in the state Attorney General's Office. In 2000, she joined the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"It would just be a huge honor to be back in York County," she said. "The idea to do it (work in the county judicial center) again, but this time as a judge, is thrilling to me."

Gov. Wolf seeks to fill judge vacancies

The process: Prendergast and Fawcett were selected after a regional advisory commission reviewed qualifications of all the candidates and presented their findings to Wolf, a Democrat from York County.

The pair, along with the 28 other nominees for judge seats across the state, will need to be confirmed by the Senate. Unlike the procedure to fill open seats on the U.S. Supreme Court, the Senate doesn't have to hold hearings for appointees, said Jeff Sheridan, spokesman for the governor's office.

"Usually (it's) just a vote," he said.

There's no timeline for when the Senate will take up nomination votes, said Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township.

Jenn Kocher, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, said the Senate has 25 legislative days to act on the nominations. But there's hope the lawmakers will act well ahead of the deadline.

Terms: If Prendergast and Fawcett are confirmed by the Senate, they'd only serve the remainder of the unfilled terms.

Nikkie Suchanic, head of the York County election office, confirmed Prendergast and Fawcett would, if appointed, serve through 2017. That's the year the two seats will appear on the ballot.

Prendergast said she intends to run for a full 10-year term, but Fawcett said she hasn't decided if she'd seek a full term.

In Pennsylvania, judges must retire at the end of the year in which they reach age 70, but voters in November will decide if the mandatory age should be upped to 75.

Though much could be made of two women being selected for appointment, Prendergast said she believes she and Fawcett were nominated because of their merits, not their gender.

"I think both of us are well qualified," said Prendergast, who has been practicing law for 22 years. On the same token, she added; "I think (the bench is) like a jury or anything else. There should be an appearance of equal representation."

York County's vacancies occurred when former judges Thomas H. Kelley VI and John W. Thompson Jr. retired from the bench. Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh also intends to retire in the near future. Another temporary vacancy exists because Judge Craig T. Trebilcock is on active duty with the U.S. Army this year.

Elsewhere: The nominees for state-level courts are:

• Supreme Court: Judge Sallie Mundy
• Superior Court: Carl Solano, Judge Lillian Harris Ransom and Geoffrey Moulton
• Commonwealth Court: Joe Cosgrove and Julia Hearthway

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @ggrossyd.