Effective late next week, all criminal and civil cases brought before two Cambria County magisterial district judges will be transferred to their replacements as the county courts gear up for fewer local judicial seats.
Cases historically handled by the Richland Township office of Max Pavlovich and Cresson Township office of Charity Nileski will be handled by the offices of John Barron and Galen Decort.
“All new filings will go to the new courts,” Cambria County Court Administrator William Valko said Monday.
Barron’s recently relocated office from Upper Yoder Township to Stonycreek Township will assume a portion of the area now covered by Pavlovich.
Decort’s office in Portage will be closed and everything moved to Nileski’s office on Portage Road.
While the official change for both offices is set for the end of the year, early steps are being initiated so that everything will be in place by that time, Valko said.
In light of declining population in many Pennsylvania counties, and in an effort to reduce state court related costs, the state’s Supreme Court ordered two years ago that two of Cambria County’s district judge seats be eliminated by the end of 2013.
Last year, President Judge Timothy Creany and Valko gathered public input from across the county on the best scenario for cutting the number of magisterial districts by 20 percent, a plan approved by the state’s highest court early this year.
The plan eliminates the seat held by Pavlovich, who turns 70 this year. Nileski, who is approaching 70, opted not to seek re-election.
State law prohibits magisterial district judges from remaining on the bench after age 70.
Creany’s plan splits the areas served by Pavlovich between Barron and Sidman District Judge Rick Varner while Nileski’s area is being split primarily between Decort and Hastings District Judge Michael Zungali.
The leases on Pavlovich’s office in University Park Plaza on Scalp Avenue and Decort’s office on Route 164 in Portage will not be renewed at the end of the year, Valko said.
The county leases space for Nileski’s office from Cresson Township, an agreement that will continue with Decort holding court at that site.
Alterations at the Cresson Township building, located just off Admiral Peary Highway, are currently underway, with the township providing an outside contractor and utilizing some help from the county, Valko said.
Staff at Pavlovich and Nileski’s offices will work through November and part of December on the steps needed to close out the cases.
“There’s a lot of cleanup work to do, a lot of behind-the-scenes work,” Valko said.
Nileski’s resignation is effective Dec. 13 and Pavlovich retires Dec. 20.
Valko said despite the elimination of two offices, none of the staff will be furloughed.
Amid retirements and voluntary resignations each office will have four clerks, the ideal number based on caseload.
Clerks from Pavlovich’s office will transfer to Varner and Barron’s office while those in Nileski’s will continue with Decort.
Physical changes at the Cresson Township office are being made to increase security, Valko said.
A barrier is being installed to prevent unhindered public access to the courtroom. Also in the works is a partition dividing a large room into two smaller meeting rooms, and a large bathroom is being split to provide a holding cell.
Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellotttd.