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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

One Sletvold Too Many?

The Express Times is now reporting that Bob Sletvold has been nominated as the next Chief Public Defender by Executive-elect John Brown. I had warned you this would happen last week. Sletvold is an excellent lawyer, but is this one Sletvold too many?

Sletvold's wife, Jennifer, was elected judge in November's election. A Republican, she garnered the nomination of both parties in the primary. Had there been a contested race against Chris Spadoni or Abe Kassis, that would have increased Democratic turnout. So Brown, a Republican, owes Sletvold. This is his way of saying thanks.

But here's the problem. Bob Sletvold concedes that he could not represent anyone in a matter in front of his wife, but thinks that is an unlikely occurrence. But if he is conflicted, then so are the lawyers who work under him. That basically means that Judge Jennifer Sletvold will be unable to hear any criminal cases.

If the Sletvolds ignore propriety and forge ahead, they are exposing the County to all sorts of litigation down the road from disgruntled inmates who will claim their case was mishandled.

Northampton County Council must confirm Sletvold. Five of its nine members are Republicans.

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bernie, suffice it so say Mr. Brown has been given some poor advice. After the election he was collared by Daub, the partnership and some prominent Northampton County Republican patriarchs.
Just wait until you see some of his cabinet picks. They will not be very good fits for the hubbub of county government.

You will especially flip with the Human Services pick. He needs some real intensive insight and experience and what he is looking at. Well you will see for yourself.

I think county council will winch at some of these picks.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Why not let us in on these choices? I think The Sletvold choice essentially will prevent Judge Sletvold from hearing almost all criminal cases. This will result in a greater burden on the remaining judges. Maybe I am mistaken to say this conflict extend to all PDs. I think it does, and also believe it will open the door to litigation. If I am wrong, I hope someone enlightens me.

Anonymous said...

Before you make your conclusions, exactly how many criminal cases have public defenders? The ET article also implies that this matter was placed before an ethics board for a ruling. More details should be released on this matter and the findings of the board should be released.

Anonymous said...

Every County Executive will live and die with his staff appointments. Remember the Jack Bradt appointment to the Human Services Director position? There is not one Republican on County Council that will vote against any of Brown's recommendations as directors. The Democrats should give him what he wants because as I have just stated, He has the right to live and die with his own staff.
Sletvold is not the best choice for being the Public Defender for more reasons than you can mention here on your blog, however, just because his wife is a Judge doesn't mean he shouldn't be allowed to practice "criminal law". Must he stop practicing criminal law because he would come in front of Judge who also serves on the bench with his wife. You saying he shouldn't have the right to practive criminal law because his wife is a Judge. That conflict will always be there whether he is P.D. or not. That challenge wouldn't hold up in Court and nor would a challenge that someone isn't properly represented because Sletvold is the public defender. Sorry Bernie, but this is only the beginning of four long years that are going to be quite different than we've experienced in the past. Wait until they start tooting their horn about the changes they make and start exposing the inefficiencies of prior administrations. The voters of Northampton County are getting right what they voted for. Washgington "R's" will look like a bunch of Saints after Northampton "R's" get done gutting the programs here at home. Remember, I told you so.

Anonymous said...

"Five of its nine members are Republicans."

This is meaningless as Ferraro is mostly a Democrat. Just ask anyone with a modicum of fiscal responsibility. Make no mistake, she's now running county government. Since orchestrating the Angle demotion and eventual purge, Peg's large and in charge. She now runs county government and can thank taliban Republican off-off-year voters for keeping her relegated to a very far back bench under a Callahan/Democrat government. Now, she'll stab them in the back and keep on spending like it's not her money because it's not her money.

Anonymous said...

Show me a lawyer who doesn't lie, cheat or steal...

Lighthouse said...

You raise valid concerns. However, it is believed that newly elected Judge Sletvold has higher aspirations, so I am sure they have calculated out whether this would have any negative impact on those aspirations. Coupled with the claimed state ethics review, they obviously do not foresee any consequential negatives.

Speculating ahead, between a Judgeship and Chief Public Defender, the Sletvold name will become solidified in the public mind, almost subliminally. So if several years down the road Jennifer does indeed run for higher court, it would be even easier for Robert to run a CP race.

Anonymous said...

aren't judges assigned to either the civil or criminal division? I don't think a judge who hears criminal cases also deals with civil matters- divorce custody etc. Do we know where she is being assigned?

Anonymous said...

not in Northampton county

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's because she's never handled a criminal case and has no idea what she's doing? Now Brown has to go and save the evil queen with a conflict of interest appointment so the other judges get her share of work.

Higher aspirations? She'll prove to be one of the most ineffective and unpopular judges in all of Northampton County history. Maybe she's going to also make Mary Barket her secretary, I hear she's very good at fetching.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The best judges tend to be the ones who never appeared in a courtroom. E.G., Judges Williams and Palmer. Good judges try to be fair, and whether they try cases or not as lawyers seems to have no bearing on impartiality. I note your own complete lack of fairness.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Before you make your conclusions, exactly how many criminal cases have public defenders? The ET article also implies that this matter was placed before an ethics board for a ruling. More details should be released on this matter and the findings of the board should be released."

I would venture to say that 90% odf the criminal and juvenile cases have public defenders. As for the state ethics board, I could see them making a ruling specific to Sletvold. And i believe he said he would not be appearing in front of his wife. But if he cannot do so, then neither can the lawyers who work for him. I certainly would like to see that ruling bc it may actually buttress the point I am making here.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"This is meaningless as Ferraro is mostly a Democrat."

When it comes to matters like this, you shall see that Peg is very much a Republican.

I would like to see the ethics ruling and whether it answers my contention that every lawyer working for Sletvold will have the same problem as he. I believe this is going to impose a terrible administrative burden on the court.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Sletvold is not the best choice for being the Public Defender for more reasons than you can mention here on your blog, however, just because his wife is a Judge doesn't mean he shouldn't be allowed to practice "criminal law".

It is his wife who will not be able to hear criminal or juvenile cases, I believe, bc it is a conflict. I like both of the Sletvolds. They are good lawyers. But if a lawyer in a law firm is disqualified, my understanding is that every other lawyer in that firm is also disqualified.

The PD office is like a lw firm. If he is disqualified from cases before his wife, then the other public defenders may also be disqualified. That is my concern.

If my concern is misplaced, I'd like to see the ethics ruling and whether it addressed that concern. My guess is it is just specific to him.

I consider this a very serious problem that is going to have an adverse impact on the bench.

It is a bad decision based on a lack of transparency. Whether the Dems make a stink about this is unclear to me. They just went along with firing someone at Christmas without so much as letting her say a word, so I suspect whatever they do will be prompted by politics, not good government. For all I know, they will vote for this. But unless I see some kind of determination that the lawyers in Sletvold's office do not have the same impediment as he, this is a bad appointment.

Anonymous said...

"Remember the Jack Bradt appointment
"

Oh Dear God, if that is who is advising Brown on Human Service's the next four years will be very long for that Department. The guy only knew how to tout his own horn and the Department suffered.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that the Slets are honorable people **eye roll** and won't speak about anything at all to do with cases at the dinner table.

Maybe Andy Daub should focus on selling cars instead of trying to rule over the county from behind the scenes. The man leaves too many fingerprints on the necks of his minions.

Anonymous said...

I am sensing a serious case of sour grapes (not from your original article Bernie) from the comments. I wonder if those comments are coming from someone who lost in the primary and/or was hoping to be named PD instead?

Anonymous said...

My dear Mary from Nazareth you are not the only one who is in on all of the goings on in the county and beyond. Someone as old as you should really stop making assumptions on who is posting what.

P.S. -- I hear you've been dragging your old flame Matt Conolly all over the 17th Congressional. Good luck with that!

Anonymous said...

@Anon 3:57... Sorry to burst your bubble BUT the 3:16 posting was from me....and I am not Mary.. Just a practicing attorney in Northampton County who knows a lot of people and knows "sour grapes" when exhibited. I would note that there is no attempt to dispute the real reason behind your hate and jealousy filled rantings....

Bernie O'Hare said...

I am sensing some personal animosity. I want to make clear that, personally and professionally, I have high regard for both Sletvolds. My concern is whether Judge Sletvold will be conflicted from hearing any case in which a litigant is represented by her huaband's office. If that is not so, I see no problem. If it is so, he should not be confirmed.

Anonymous said...

I think that there is a conflict of interest but as Bernie says it has nothing to do with them as individual attorneys. They are qualified.

That is a usual Republicanish problem. Secrecy than announcements and sometimes a sense of entitlement over conflicts and at times even "real life" qualifications.

Saw it with Brackbill and seem to be seeing it again. Like Brackbill, Brown seems to be a good man but once the Republican power boys get their hands on them they turn them into paranoid party fanatics. Bernie, I hear a very experienced Democrat offered to sit down with Brown when asked to discus an important part of county government. Once the "boys" got a hold of Brown that was squashed big time.

Sad!

Anonymous said...

OMG. Some of these comments are hateful and some are obviously sour grapes. I think we will all see that Brown is his own man. You have a problem with that , too bad. He and the republicans were elected to try to stop the bleeding. We are hemmoraging as a country thanks to the left and their king. Maybe this little part of the country can show that the tide really is turning. Starts one step at a time. Bernie I hope this issue of the 2 Sledvolds does not become the problem you think it will. And to the person calling Jen a witch. You should be so lucky.... Be u man or woman. She is far too smart, mature, nice , classy and attractive to worry about you. What are your attributes???? Hummm.

Anonymous said...

You mean to tell me the only qualified candidate for the PD is sletvold? Seriously that is just sad.... there are alot of good republican attornies that could do a better job with the baggage of Judge and chief PD. If she thinks this helps her future path of going onward it won't. This is the worst thing she could agree to.When you see this kind of nepotism its why I voted to end this kind of "democratic shit" and here we go. Same old shit.... let's put Angle back in office and Tricia mezzacrazy on town council

Bernie O'Hare said...

7:01, Not sure where Judge Sletvold was called that name. But it's really a nasty thing to do.

Anonymous said...

All the more reason for elected row officers. Jobs will continue to be given as paybacks or to further ones political career. Brown's appointments can be no worse than those of Stoffa. Hopefully Brown will run the County as a business and eliminate all the fluff - the work force can be reduced in several departments if employees were made to do their jobs and not sit on their ass. Angle was right when he called for layoffs - the County did not suffer.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Please. Elected row officers are a step backwards. Right now, our row officers are all professionals who cannot be replaced by the executive. They are nonpolitical. You want to make things worse, and are using patronage to justify more of it.

Anonymous said...

anon 7:01, you sound like th eone with an axe to grind. The comments made were not hateful but cautious.

I find it fascinating that the tea party foot solders who work so hard to elect Republicans locally see that as stopping Obama. Once you win, your party leaders taker over and they are country club types like Daub, Bradt and Ferraro. You guys do all the leg work and they control and run the show.

Mark my words, within two years Mr. Brown will ask for a tax increase. Will it be a good increase because he is a
Republican?

You guys have me stumped. You really have let yourselves be manipulate and used.



Just amazing.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year!!!

Looking forward to a very Republican tax free new year in Northampton county. You rock Mayor Brown!!!

Anonymous said...

Rumors on appointees? Prediction, won't be the most qualified. Just payback.

Anonymous said...

1;08 am You just finished your 7th year in a row without a tax increase. You been in a coma ?

Anonymous said...

1:51, and we will go another four without one. Unnecessary. Even a couple of the Dem's on county council have admitted that. with a Republican Executive and republican county council, there will be no new taxes.

It will happen not by spending off surpluses like Stoffa did but by sound fiscal management and putting the county money grubbing employees on a diet!

Good year coming on!

Anonymous said...

You need sleep; that might help.

Bernie O'Hare said...

A diet? I know county employees who have actually gone backwards bc meager raises have been eaten by a commuter tax. Obamacare may wipe out more. There is no way to avoid a tax hike in the next two years. Not without sacrificing services to the county residents. If it is your goal to avoid tax hikes at the cost of efficient service, you might be able to avoid a hike. But if you are actually interested in serving the public, a tax hike within the next two years is a reality.

Bethlehem dem said...

The Sletvolds abandoned Gregory in his darkest hour, how can they be trusted?

Bernie O'Hare said...

His darkest hour arrived the day he began listening to you, Tricia Mezzacappa.

Anonymous said...

There is at least 3 to 4 million dollars in Human Services alone that can be cut. That includes some ridiculous salaries to high position people that are rarely there. Also a bunch of pretend management positions. The number of consultants throughout the county should be cut.

It can be done! It must be done!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yes, this would be wanted by someone who does not want protective services looking into claims that he has abused his sister.

Anonymous said...

If the County is worried about liability because of this appointment, the cost of this will be peanuts compared to the payout if any deputy sheriff who has not qualified with their new "heat" uses it in the line of duty. There is currently one LT. and several deputy sheriff who failed to qualify with their new Glock handguns purchased by outgoing Sheriff Miller but were issued them anyways. They are not qualified to carry these weapons and still have them strapped to their hip. As a county employee, I am appalled that this is happening, since they are suppose to protect my safety. These deputies are paid quite well - way more than me- to hang around door entrances for the entire afternoon when court is complete. Brown should take care of this problem with cuts (no need to raise taxes), but until he gets in office, these deputies need to be disarmed. The Sgt. who issued the guns refused to give me an answer, and Miller is off in France celebrating the Callahan victory. If anyone can get answers, it is you Bernie.

Bernie O'Hare said...

What you report is a serious problem if it is true. But is it true? I have a problem with these kinds of comments when you can't identify yourself bc it makes me question your own agenda.

Anonymous said...

Employees are getting go left and right, so I prefer to be anonymous. Just ask who is now running the department for an answer - the Chief Deputy - and when he tells you he cannot comment, you will have the answer.

Anonymous said...

Stoffa ahs dumped people left and right in his outgoing purge. He has also found a job for the person county council defunded. Stoffa plugged her into a position just like he did to his old girlfriend from Lehigh County.

Check it out!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Whether you like it or not, Stoffa was imbued with immense power as county exec. I am delighted to hear he found a position for the woman whose civil rights were violated by Council. They should be ashamed of themselves, and I hope she still sues to put Ken Kraft in place.

Anonymous said...

Word is the old girlfriend got a job in HR. That seems to be the dumping spot for Executive branch girlfriends.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This seems to be an accusation, made anonymously, that John Stoffa is a swinger who found a sport for his ex girlfriend in HR. Although Stoffa would readily agree to any charge that he has thousands of affairs, the claim is completely false, and the person making the charge is a typically anonymous coward unwilling to accept responsibility for what he or she writes.

Anonymous said...

if stoffa were getting laid as much as some of these assholes allege, I imagine he'd look a lot happier than he usually does.

Anonymous said...

Bob should be PD and Jenn should still take criminal cases. If the county has to use conflict staff to fulfill the ethical aspects of it, so be it.

Conflict counsel is there specifically for circumstances like this.

Anonymous said...

Really - "all" criminal cases? Shouldn't people do some more research first? What possible conflict could exist in a case before Judge Sletvold where the people are represented by a member of the Northampton County District Attorney's office and the defendant has a private practice defense counsel who has no ties to the Public Defender's Office?

Bernie O'Hare said...

There would be no conflict in that instance, but that is very rare.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Conflict counsel is there specifically for circumstances like this."

Not exactly. It is there for cases in which multiple defendants seek a PD, or when a Defendant has a problem with his PD. It might work, but I think it would send the budget through the roof and create the need for at least one additional conflicts counsel. With a new Exec and four new Rs on Council who have discussed cutting costs, this is not a solution.

I would like to see the ethics ruling. Nobody seems to have it at the moment. But that could very well answer my concern. Bob told me that there may be a difference between a disqualification in a firm and a disqualification in an institutional setting.

In a law firm, if one lawyer is disqualified, they are all disqualified. But that may not be so for an office like the PD. I would like to see the ruling.

Peter J.Cochran said...

Bernie, a lot of thought here but, Don't you think if the cases that were CRIMINAL and held with a PD, that were lope sided, would begin to show up on this new Judge with appeals against her record? I think they have more class and integrity.I say this knowing they don't even know me.

Anonymous said...

Agree with 10:21, we aware of his old girlfriend form Lehigh County getting the HR job but do not know of any other women.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You agree with 10:21 because you are 10:21.