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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Judge Panella a Hit With NorCo Retirees

Dorothy, Dot and Maurice Dimmick made the Wills office a pleasure to visit. 
Twice every year, Northampton County retirees get together at Northampton Community Center for a delicious lunch. For this year's Spring lunch, which was attended by well over 200 retirees, Attorney Michael Corriere kicked things off with a discussion on wills, living wills and powers of attorney. But the main event was Superior Court Judge Jack Panella.

Judge Panella, for those of you who don't know, is something of a rock star to Northampton County workers. I found this out the hard way a few years ago when I met him to discuss his Sexual Violence Bench book, which he really wanted me to read for some reason.

As I sat there with my ham on rye, women shoved me aside as they fawned all over him. "I miss you so much," he'd say, and they'd giggle like schoolgirls as I pretended to read his book.Before long, half the courthouse was there, surrounding him.

One of them finally glanced at me, glared at the book and said, "Bernie, are you reading about sex crimes at lunch? You really are a pervert, you know?"

So I've been told.

Judge Jack Panella, NorCo rock star
Judge Panella, who was admitted at the same time as John Morganelli and Jay Leeson, went on to become Northampton County's Solicitor under Jerry Seyfried, a county judge and a Superior Court Judge. He's been on the bench now for 25 years. "Seems like yesterday," he said at lunch.

He brought another book, by the way. I let others have it.

Judge Panella told a few stories about his time on the bench and as a lawyer.

Northampton County's First Million Dollar Verdict

One of the cases he remembers as a law clerk fresh out of law school is the lawsuit that resulted when Debra LaForm was swept away by raging Bethlehem Tp stormwaters in 1977. She was sucked into a drainpipe that was only 18" in circumference, and her body was found later in Nancy Run Creek.

During the trial, after LaForm's mother had finished her emotional testimony, Bethlehem Township's lawyer asked her if her daughter could swim.

"You can tack $500,000 onto the verdict after that question," Judge Franciosa whispered to Panella.

The verdict, $1 million, was the largest verdict at that time, in Northampton County.

I would break that record the following year, but as a defense lawyer.

Lipstick and Blood

Another case he mentioned was one over which he presided as a trial judge. The Devon Guzman murder. She had been involved in a lesbian relationship with two women. One of those women, along with her jealous husband, decided to kill her. She was grabbed from behind and a knife plunged into one side of her throat and then cut away, nearly severing her head from her shoulders. She resisted and bit through one of the arms holding her down from behind, right through the shirt and into the skin.

After the murder, Guzman's body was left in a car at the Hugh Moore Park in Easton, to make it look like a suicide. The murderers went home and put their clothing in the washing machine instead of discarding their bloody garments.

As police became suspicious, they were able to link the blood in the washing machine to Guzman, and even found traces of the lipstick she was wearing. They also noticed the bitemark in the shirt.

District Attorney John Morganelli decided to call a doctor and ask if someone could bite through clothing and into another person's skin.

This doctor told him that was entirely possible, and the mentioned that, as luck would have it, he had just treated someone with that kind of bitemark. The doctor was served with a subpoena and it turned out that the person he treated was the jealous husband whose clothing had been found in the washing machine.

Panella brought a book about that murder, Lipstick and Blood. That's the one I let others take.

Can a Man marry His Son?

The final case Judge Panella discussed involves an elderly gay couple who had been together for decades, long before a gay lifestyle was approved. Unable to marry, one of the men, aged 60, adopted his 40 year old gay lover because they were unable to marry.

Fast forward 20 years, and gay marriage is now legal. But a father can't marry his son, so this gay couple sought to have the adoption annulled. A trial judge said No, so that case is now before a three-judge panel that includes Judge Panella.


After Judge Panella finished his remarks, Master of Ceremonies Gerald E "Jerry" Seyfried decided to tell his own story, involving Judge Zito. A couple in the Slate belt were having domestic difficulties because the husband was always cheating on his wife. So she decided to snip off his penis, like Lorena Bobbit. She had the scissors, but instead of snipping at the male organ, she decided to stab it off. But she missed and hit the guy's thigh instead.

Though she was charged with felony aggravated assault, Seyfried reported that Judge Zito reduced the charges because it was only a "misdewiener."

The audience groaned, and I think a few people started throwing things and the meeting quickly ended.

It was great to see a lot of old friends there, including former Council Clerk Frank Flisser, former Executive Glenn Reibman, former Council member and Director of Human Services Ron Heckman, Jerry's lovely wife Julie, Regina, Dorothy, Dot and Maurice, to name a few.


Anonymous said...

Where was Stoffa? He usually attends.

Bernie O'Hare said...

John Stoffa has an illness that sometimes makes it difficult for him to steady himself, and had a fall the day before and was injured. I hope he's doing OK.

Anonymous said...

I thought we elected a new team of county council members to end this nonsense. Why are my tax dollars feeding these old trough feeders?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Asshole, the retirees who attend this lunch pay for it out of their own pockets. Your tax dollars pay for none of this.

Anonymous said...

Did you get any widower's cell numbers Bernie, nothing like a hummer from a toothless granny.

Irish Vlad said...

Bernie your 12:17AM comment, is that code for drunkenness?

Anonymous said...

no for Parkinsons disease wise guy

Anonymous said...

A current county councilman stated that these retirees are getting great pensions and benefits. So if the taxpayer is footing the bill for their pensions I guess anon 12:28 is technically right and this is at the taxpayers expense. Is that right?

Anonymous said...

Those were the good 'ole days. No more.

Bernie O'Hare said...

4:11, They are pensions based on long years of service and well-earned. Most of them are rather low.

I deleted a few of the nasty comments, but let a few stay up there so people know what the haters are like.

Anonymous said...

Were you aware that most County employees are and were at the bottom of the pay scale. Most County employees are clerks in the bottom 25% of the salary bracket. At Gracedale, laundry workers and aides make up a large number of the lowest salaries paid. Their pensions are earned after many years of low wages and their pensions are calculated on those low earnings. You are right Bernie, the janitors, parks employees, Gracedale employees, clerks, etc make up the greatest number of county employees with menial pensions that are usually subsidized by food stamps and other government programs. The County should be ashamed for the way they treat their employees in their old age.
P.S. My pension is less than one thousand dollars a month and my social security is even less than that, and that's after 28 years of service.

Anonymous said...

Oh by the way, I pay tax on my pension, pay for tax on my social security, pay a co-pay for my medical, and after my school taxes and property taxes are paid, I qualify for food stamps and homeowners rebates. There are times I don't have two nickles to rub together. My savings are almost depleted, all of this because of those big government pensions.

Anonymous said...

Just redd a district justice from the other one involved in Allentown's Humptydumty scandell had a heart attack before being carted off to an indictment?!?! Wondering when the puzzle pieces will be fitting together like that in the pussie boil west of narco?!?!
Most public servants are deserving of the pensions that they dedicated there lives too?! Than there are those that have a double dipp pension package not to mention there criminal extra curricular ACTivities while serving on the clock of a public service to do disservice the nue nue nue mellennia catch line of the CENTURY?!
Re:publican redd

Anonymous said...


Imagine that this guy could get elected in Nazareth for sure-

Anonymous said...

Who paid for your lunch? Is there a list available of al the retirees and the public pensions they receive? Why have you not posted it? Is the pension fund bankrupt like the school districts?

These questions are why Mr.Trump is leading in every poll. Some people just don't get it.

Anonymous said...

anon 3:31 Why don't you check it out? Aren't you folks all self-reliant? Why ask Bernie. You sound like a real idiot. What the hell is wrong with you?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Northampton Cpunty has two pension funds, and both of them are doing very well. The regular pension fund has $344 million, the highest it has ever been The OPEB has $30 million and is 86% funded.

I was there for the story, not lunch. I like to keep up with the retirees and hear their concerns. I have a dairy allergy and can't eat the food.

Anonymous said...

Maurice is a great guy. He always made a trip to the County Archives a pleasure.