The Pennsylvania Senate approved tacked-on procedures for a senior judge operational support grant program along with a House-approved increase to select courts of common pleas in Pennsylvania.
The Cumberland, Wayne, Delaware, Montgomery and Monroe districts are still set to gain one more judge on its district’s bench, with the Bucks district set to go from 13 judges in its Court of Common Pleas to 15. However, the Senate concurred with a 49-1 vote on the House’s amendment that adds a section to the bill listing the procedures for continuing a senior judge operational grant program.
The grant would be available “based on the level of operational support provided by a county to” senior judges formerly of the judicial district who are regularly or “periodically” assigned to that county or who are assigned under Section 4544 relating to relocation to multicounty investigating grand juries or are visiting senior judges.
Grants would be calculated based on the use of judicial chambers and the use of a law clerk or secretary. The use of judicial chambers would be reimbursed at the rate of $60 per day, law clerk services would be reimbursed at $20 an hour and a secretary would be reimbursed at $12 an hour.
Counties would be reimbursed after the filing of an application by the board of commissioners, or in the absence of commissioners, the executive authority of the county or a mayor of a first class city—which Philadelphia is currently the only county to meet the 1.5 million population requirement.
The application would be certified by the president judge of that county’s judicial district and the due date for the application for that calendar year would be established by the court administrator of Pennsylvania.
If the total reimbursement exceeds the amount appropriated by the General Assembly, the Pennsylvania court administrator is allowed to “proportionally reduce” the grant for each county so the total of all grants doesn’t exceed the amount appropriated. The bill states that no county can receive more than 20 percent of the amount appropriated for the senior judge operational grants in any fiscal year.