Lance Wheeler, a local Pennsylvania State Constable for the Northampton County Sheriff's office, announced Tuesday at a press conference in front of his West Ward home that he will run for the open district magistrate position left vacant last month by the sudden death of Judge Gay Elwell.
Wheeler said that working in the district courts of Northampton and Lehigh counties provides him with first-hand knowledge of the mechanics of civil and criminal procedures, and that living in the most densely populated part of the City of Easton places him in the middle of the issues a district judge will face daily, from traffic violations to truancy, homicides to domestic violence and landlord to tenant disputes.
"As a constable I am familiar with the mechanics of the system and the necessity of discerning through the facts with impartiality," said Mr. Wheeler. He added his experiences have prepared him "to discern through the facts with impartiality and wisdom."
A registered Democrat, he will be cross-filing on the spring primary ballot he said.
Wheeler is the third declared candidate in the likely magistrate election for District Court 03-2-05, which covers the Downtown and College Hill districts of Easton, along with part of the West Ward.
Sharbel Koorie, another West Ward resident and City of Easton code enforcement officer announced his intention to run in late December, and Antonia Grifo, a Downtown city attorney, announced last week she too will run in the expected election for the vacant seat.
Two other candidates, attorney Tim Prendergast and Easton City Controller Tony Bassil, also seem likely to vie for the judgeship, but neither have yet made official announcements.
It is still possible that Governor Tom Corbett might appoint someone to fill the vacant seat, but this seems unlikely. Any gubernatorial appointment would have to be approved by the state senate as well.
Update, Thursday, January 17, 10:00 p.m.: Magisterial District Judge candidate Lance Wheeler has posted a Facebook page entitled "Elect Lance Wheeler". Listed are a number of public events in coming months where members of the public can meet and chat with him