SUNBURY — Shamokin District Judge John Gembic said drugs are the main reason his caseload will exceed 800 criminal cases in 2018, the most the judge has seen in his 18 years on the bench.

"It's crazy this year," Gembic said. "This is the most ever and I blame the drug epidemic."

Gembic's office has also seen more than 6,000 criminal, civil, landlord-tenant, non-criminal and traffic cases this year.

Another record, he said.

Gembic sat down this week for The Daily Item’s One on One weekly video series. The interview is available at

"It's insane," he said. "The workload is off the charts and anyone that says this (job) is part-time couldn't be more wrong."

Gembic said the majority of his criminal cases are mostly drug-related.

"These people are addicted to drugs and they are out stealing to buy drugs," he said. "We need to stop this cycle and get these people help."

Sunbury District Judge Mike Toomey agreed.

"Drugs are the No. 1 problem right now and people are committing crimes to get drugs," he said. "We need more treatment."

Toomey said his caseload is near 4,000, but because the Sunbury Police Department is short on manpower the numbers are down. Sunbury is down to five officers after having as many as 13 a few years ago.

"And the caseload is still high and all I can do is roll up my sleeves and dive in," Toomey said.

Toomey said he feels for Gembic because when Toomey was an assistant district attorney who covered the Shamokin area, the caseload was high, but not this high.

"He has his hands full," Toomey said.

Gembic said he plans on speaking with Toomey and coming up with more ideas on treatment for drug users.

"We need to stop this cycle and we need to do it quickly," he said. "Otherwise I don't think any of the caseloads for any of the judges will slow down."

Breaking News reporter