The Allegheny County judge set to take over as the Fifth Judicial District’s administrative judge was arrested last year on a DUI charge.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently announced that, starting Nov. 1, Allegheny County Judge Christine Ward will become the court’s new administrative judge of the civil division, replacing Judge Ronald Folino, who has headed the civil division since December 2013. An order from the Supreme Court outlining the change accompanied the announcement Oct. 20.
Ward, however, was charged with driving under the influence last summer, and was sentenced to Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition in September 2016. According to a report from TribLive, Ward’s law license was not suspended, but she had to complete safe-driving courses and pay nearly $2,250 in court costs and program fees.
Ward did not return a call for comment Monday.
According to the TribLive article, under the terms of her sentence Ward had the opportunity to ask the court to expunge the charges if she successfully completed the program.
A search of online criminal records from the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas on Monday showed no record of Ward’s case.
In a July 2016 article, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cited a police affidavit saying that Ward had been pulled over in O’Hara Township on July 3, 2016, after there was a report of an erratic driver along Route 28. The report said Ward fell over during a traffic stop, had trouble following instructions and told police that she had “too much” to drink, according to the newspaper. The paper also noted that Ward was taken to UPMC St. Margaret, where she refused to submit to a blood test.
TribLive’s story from September 2016 noted that, along with paying the court costs and fees, Ward was sentenced to spend six months in a probation program for nonviolent first-time offenders. That story said Ward could ask the court to expunge her charges if she completed the program, and noted that she had neither recused from, nor been reassigned from any cases following the incident, since she handles civil cases.
A spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts said in an emailed statement that “administrative judges are selected by the court based on the justices’ confidence in their ability to fulfill the duties. Once chosen, the judge is responsible for the efficient operation of their respective division.”
Allegheny County President Judge Jeffrey Manning did not return a message seeking comment Monday.
According to the Supreme Court’s announcement, Ward joined the bench in March 2003 and was assigned to the juvenile court. In 2007, she was transferred to the civil division, where she became one of two Allegheny County judges overseeing the commerce court, which had recently been formed. The announcement noted that Ward is expected to continue being involved with the commerce court, despite her recent reassignment as administrative judge.
Folino, whom Ward is set to replace, was elected to the bench in 1993. After being assigned to the family division, he was transferred to the civil division in 1997, and became the administrative judge in December 2013, the announcement said. Folino, according to the announcement, plans to retire soon.
The new administrative judge for the civil division is not the only change for leadership at the Fifth Judicial District announced Oct. 20.
The Supreme Court also announced that Judge Kim Eaton has been selected as the new administrative judge of the family division.
Eaton, who joined the court in January 2000, is set to replace Judge Kim Berkeley Clark, who joined the court in March 1999. According to the announcement, Clark plans to remain a family court judge and is set to hear juvenile cases.
Max Mitchell can be contacted at 215-557-2354 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MMitchellTLI.