The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

January 4, 2011

Sholley installed as Union-Snyder president judge

LEWISBURG — Several times during Monday’s interview with newly installed Union-Snyder President Judge Michael H. Sholley, he referred solemnly to “the announcement” that led to him taking over administrative duties of the two courts.

“Being an associate judge was a great job, and then someone makes an announcement,” he said of former President Judge Harold F. Woelfel Jr.’s decision to retire at the end of December, one year before his second, 10-year term was to expire.

Woelfel’s decision elevated Sholley from associate judge to president judge one year after the former Snyder County district attorney took the bench.

Sholley enjoyed the pace of an associate judge, which had him responsible for his own case load and none of the administrative duties.

Now, as president judge, Sholley will get a small bump in pay, from $164,602 to $165,315, as well as the responsibility of managing the court system in Union and Snyder counties, including overseeing the probation and domestic relations departments and five district courts.

“I enjoy working with six commissioners and believe we have a good relationship. I don’t dread the budget process,” he said.

Still, Sholley is mindful of the impact his decisions will have on many county employees and said he’s in no hurry to make changes.

“I’m going to educate myself before I do anything. You have to be conscious of the fact that everything you do has a ripple effect,” he said. “Everybody’s worried about changes, but I don’t plan any at this point.”

Meetings are planned with the court administrative staff this week, as well as row officers, and local bar association leaders.

“I want to be open with communication, to explain why we’re doing what we do,” he said.

Although Sholley will be aided by senior judges Woelfel and Louise O. Knight, who by law may each work about 10 days a month at a daily fee of $457, a majority of the work will be on his shoulders.

Since an associate judge will not be elected until November and take the bench for another year, the decision was made to postpone civil trials until 2012.

But it doesn’t alleviate pending criminal cases, such as the homicide trial of Roderick Sims, 48, the Milton man accused of fatally shooting his former fiancee and mother of his three children, Charity Spickler, in September 2008.

Two weeks have been set aside for jury selection and the trial in March.

Also pending is the murder case against Joel R. Snider, the St. Louis, Mo., man charged with shooting New Berlin yoga master Sudharman to death last July.

If the court schedule becomes too hectic, Sholley said, senior judges from other counties may be brought in.

In the meantime, he’ll shuffle between the courthouses in Lewisburg and Middleburg.

He keeps a black robe in each of the judges’ chambers, but won’t decide which will become his full-time court until after the election and an associate judge is on the bench.

“Being president judge, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

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