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Judge Muroski wants bench vacancies filled

President judge will meet with state legislators to get three spots filled to ease backlog.

WILKES-BARRE – Luzerne County President Judge Chester Muroski on Tuesday said he will meet “as quickly as possible” with all of Luzerne County’s state legislators in an effort to form a lobby to convince Gov. Ed Rendell to fill the three vacancies on the county bench.

“Even with the two successful candidates from Tuesday’s election, we will now be down to seven judges going into January,” Muroski said. “We need to convince the governor to make these appointments as soon as possible.”

Muroski offered congratulations to William Amesbury and Tina Polachek Gartley on their victories Tuesday and said he looks forward to having them on the county court. Muroski will turn 70 in December – the mandatory retirement age – and he is expected to apply for senior status.

Amesbury and Gartley will fill the seats of Muroski and Judge Joseph Musto, who filled the unexpired term of former Judge Michael Conahan.

Judge Thomas Burke Jr. won his 10-year retention Tuesday, but Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. failed to win retention, leaving three vacancies on the bench. Olszewski’s seat will be open in January. Former Judge Mark Ciavarella’s seat is open, as is the spot formerly held by Ann Lokuta, who is appealing a court decision that removed her from the bench earlier this year.

“That will give us three vacancies,” Muroski said. “In any event, the governor could appoint at least two people. All things being equal, one appointee could be a Democrat and one a Republican. However, I will leave that to Sen. (Lisa) Baker and Sen. (Ray) Musto.”

Muroski said he will schedule a meeting with Baker and Musto and state reps. Eddie Day Pashinski, Mike Carroll, John Yudichak, Todd Eachus, Phyllis Mundy and Karen Boback at their earliest availability.

Since the judicial corruption scandal hit, the county has faced a serious backlog in cases.

The Court of Common Pleas currently has eight sitting judges: Muroski, Hugh Mundy, Joseph Augello, David Lupas, Musto, Michael Toole, Burke and Olszewski.

Appointments must be confirmed by the state Senate.

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