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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ott Betrays Judge McGinley For 30 Pieces of Silver

Ott with NC right-winger Hayden Phillips
Just as Judas betrayed Jesus, Commissioner Scott Ott betrayed President Judge Carol McGinley earlier this month for 30 pieces of silver. At least he didn't kiss her first. This betrayal not only hurt Judge McGinley, but could end up costing Lehigh County quite a bit of money. It might even get someone hurt. Or worse. But Ott is willing to risk someone else getting hurt to keep his campaign war chest filled. Let me fill you in.

Lehigh County Comm'r Lisa Scheller proposed slashing the judicial budget by about $146,000. "It's not directed at employees," she disingenuously explained, but it certainly was. It eliminated the funding for four tipstaffs.

Let me start by telling you about tipstaffs. Charlie Dent's mom was one, incidentally. Juries loved her. As one judge recently explained to me, it takes a special person. So the best tipstaffs are full-timers who are paid low wages but have to be there when the judge is there. Part-timers don't work because most jury trials are settled at the last minute, leading a person to schedule himself at the courthouse for nothing.

Why are they needed? According to what President Judge Carol McGinley told Commissioners, they make judges more productive. "My attention needs to be focused entirely on the litigants and the case in front of me," she explained. "Every time I'm interrupted by a crying baby, somebody who looks lost, somebody who can't speak English and needs interpretation services, these things all slow my productivity and actually interrupt the rights of the litigants in front of me to give them my full attention."

The persons who prevent mistrials, which can cost a County between $100,000 and $500,000, are the tipstaffs. Judge McGinley noted that if a Protection from Abuse (PFA) case is dismissed because some battered woman is unknowingly sitting in the wrong courtroom and there's no tipstaff to direct her where to go, that woman is at risk and could be hurt.

Several years ago, the judges made a commitment to work with less, but Judge McGinley told Commissioners that experiment is failing. Thy are needed most urgently during jury trials and when there are long lists.

By their nature, jury trials are terribly inefficient. Ask any juror. You can't get around it. But that inefficient process, which consists of long periods of time in which judges, litigants and tipstaffs sit on their hands, is the cornerstone to our American system of justice. It's embedded in the Constitution that tea partiers claim to embrace. And these older men and women, just like the older men and woman at polling precincts, preserve our democracy.

Before there's a jury trial, there are long lists in which 50 to 100 people can be jammed into a courtroom and adjoining hallways at the same time. A battered woman and the man who beat her. Witnesses and the gang members who would like them to shut up. Most of the courtrooms are simply too small to hold everyone. Tipstaffs identify parties and lawyers in a case. They separate people. They prioritize cases and get them before a judge. They smell out trouble and alert deputies. This requires two people at a minimum. One deals with the public while the other manages the actual courtroom proceedings for the judge.

As society has changed, things have become worse for the courts. Where do you think the dregs of society end up? Did you know most of them have no lawyers? They are also the first recourse for many people who really need help from our judicial system.

Judge McGinley explained all this, and more, to Commissioners. DA Jim Martin, who has practiced law for 40 years, had her back.

Commissioner Scott Ott seemed to not only buy into the argument, but suggested that it might be necessary to increase staffing.

"That scenario you just painted is a frightful one. People could get hurt. The County could get hit with hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional expenses. Perfectly good cases could get thrown out. ... If that's the situation and that's a legitimate and clear and present danger, wouldn't it be irresponsible to not fully staff those other courtrooms?

He told Judge McGinley,  "What you said was pretty scary stuff. Yet we don't seem to be taking the action. I know we're pinching every penny twice and there's no more money available everywhere. But it would seem to me that the costs by what you said would be far outweighed by the benefits of staffing these other courtrooms, so I guess I'm wondering how is it tolerable for us to allow that low staffing level, but it's intolerable for us to do it in another courtroom?

McGinley: "Comm'r Ott, if you're suggesting that because we haven't asked for those three back, that my objections to removing four more are not legitimate, I disagree with the proposition.

Ott: "No, that's not what I'm suggesting. I'm seriously concerned. What you just described sounds like another penny wise, pound foolish thing where we're going to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, have court cases thrown out, and have people potentially be injured because we don't staff appropriately. If that's legitimate, and you say it is, then we've got a different situation on our hands here than I was previously aware. By the way, not until tonight had I heard that this experiment is failing.

But when it was time to vote on Scheller's motion to cut funding, Ott went along with his so-called reform team and against his own arguments.


30 pieces of silver. His most recent campaign finance report reveals that GOP party boss Wayne Woodman and his wife Lisa Scheller, just contributed $30,000 to Ott's campaign. This is the same Lisa Scheller who proposed eliminating this funding for the judges. Though Ott claimed that it was "irresponsible" not to have those tipstaffs, he had to listen to his paymaster instead of doing what was right.

Ott actually got more than 30 pieces of silver. He reports $46,480 from the My Lehigh County PAC that GOP party boss Wayne Woodman and Lisa Scheller control. That's her money.

That night, Comm'r Brad Osborne said, "I'd hate to make a decision that is not based out of knowledge, and have something bad come out of it."

But Ott is willing to take that risk for the right amount of money.


Anonymous said...

Great idea that will hopefully be repeated next year in Northampton County!!

Anonymous said...

This is why people are working to se the Republicans win in Northampton County. We need this hard edge kind of policy!

Anonymous said...

of course it was a good idea - that's why no brainer ohairless doesn't like it. He foolishly thinks all evil comes from Ott

cut till it hurts

Anonymous said...

your hatred of ott is blinding you on this one. they are useless. personal servants for the judges.

How come the federal system (arguably, the greatest judicial system in the history of humankind) doesn't have or need them?

michael molovinsky said...

bernie, connecting ott's vote with silver from scheller is conjecture on your part, and plays into historical stereotypes. ott has explained that he likes to deliberate out-loud; he could very well believe that in a world where cost is no object, more tipsters would be good. you criticize him for not saving the taxpayers 16%, but object to the cuts that were made.

Anonymous said...

Good grief. Tipstaffs are political plums for do-nothings. How did Tony Koury get his job in NorCo? Yeah, we know. Judges can fetch their own damn lunch. Wow, Bernie. You're really reaching. It indicates you're out of bullets. Go back to the race baiting. It never gets old and our grandkids are going to hate each other anyway.

Anonymous said...

once again MM's superior intellect and logic overrides bo's pure hatred.

shame bo can not tame his demons

Bernie O'Hare said...

"bernie, connecting ott's vote with silver from scheller is conjecture on your part, and plays into historical stereotypes."

MM is referring here to anti-Semitism. I am surprised he would publicly make this accusation without discussing it with me first. Let me start by saying i know few people my age from this area that were not raised with overwhelming anti-Semitic prejudice. That is my history, and one that I think I have overcome. The fact that MM makes this accusation bothers me, not bc he made it, but bc I hope it is untrue.

I accused Ott of betraying Judge McGinley for 30 pieces of silver. Ott is an evangelical Christian, not Jewish. Had Ott been Jewish, I would never have made the comparison mention precisely bc it could be construed as anti-Semitism. But he is Christian, and the Judas betrayal is part of the New Testament.

I think MM is off on this one, but appreciate him raising the possibility, and am willing to add something to my blog if he thinkjs it necessary.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Folks, there is a blog hijacking going on. In recent days, as election day draws near, I've noticed the comments are increasingly virulent, with anonymous personal attacks aimed at me. Some of these undoubtedly come from the Ott camp. After all, I've been told to go to hell by one of the Commissioners on the Ott block. If you want to be taken seriously, it's best to stay away from the personal attacks. better yet if you identify yourself. Otherwise, it just sounds like the rantings West Easton's Tricia mezzacappa and her blog mentor.

Anonymous said...

Vote all these fools out of both counties!!!

Whethervain said...

This is to allay an assertion (on M.Molovinsky's blog today) that Bernie has has gone to the dark side by deleting a post here last night listing Muller's political contributors. I am unpoofing it and posting this link to that information - and you will see that it won't be deleted. Maybe because I'm identifying myself.

So lighten up on your dark side fantasy.

Bernie appears to have done a wholesale deletion of many posts while his blog weathered an attack last night. While I don't know what the original (deleted) post looked like, the poster stated what he posted and the above link will lead you to those same facts.

Bernie O'Hare said...

But I have gone to the dark side.

Anonymous said...

Dark side is code for your race baiting. Our grandkids are being hurt by you. You talk a good game about kids. But you secretly wish the same misery on them you've made of your own life. Disgraceful. Stop the race baiting. You supposedly have a skin in the game. You're a racist just like that evil Mezzakkkappa. No amount of contrived window dressing can cover it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It is comments like the one above that I was deleting in abundance last night, Whethervain.

michael molovinsky said...

whethervane @8:53, since you refer to an assertion on my blog about bernie deleting a comment, i must clarify that the claim was made by a reader in a comment, not by me in a post.

Anonymous said...

I was at the commissioners meeting where this exchange between Ott and McGinley occurred.

I'm not a fan of Ott and think he'd be a terrible executive, but I don't agree with the argument that Ott believed one thing in his conversation with McGinley, but voted the other way because of Woodman's campaign contributions.

Rather, I think Ott was speaking in an extremely condescending way (in that way he often does) to McGinley to make the point that, "If the court system is really as messed up as you say it is because of a lack of tipstaffs, then why haven't you come to us before asking for more."

I think in Ott's mind, the tipstaff situation isn't nearly as bad as McGinley was representing, because if they were, the courts would have long ago come crawling to the commissioners asking for more money to hire more tipstaffers.

So Ott makes his remarks to McGinley pretending he's "seriously concerned" but is really just jabbing her in a condescending way. ("By the way, not until tonight had I heard that this experiment is failing.")

So I don't agree with your full argument here, Bernie. But I still agree with the greater point that Ott would be a terrible exec.