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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Cusick, Barron Slam NorCo's Entitled Law Clerks

At yesterday's Budget Hearing, NorCo Council President John Cusick made it pretty clear that he's unhappy to discover that the judicial law clerks are collecting a $25 stipend for reviewing no-fault divorce cases and are sticking around for longer than they should.

Over six years, law clerks have pocketed $110,225 from these fees. "I don't see why anybody's getting a stipend to do what's in their job description," Cusick said.

He also thinks their salaries need to be reduced.
"We made it comfortable and it created a situation where it became possible for the clerks to become career service. And that was not the intention. I remember, I was there when Jim Onembo [former court administrator] came and said, 'We need to raise these salaries so we can the best and the brightest students out of law school.' Well, that's not what happened. What's managed to occur is that these people have just stayed on because of the higher salary.

I think Council needs to consider, at least for new hires, moving the pay rate back to where it was ... . At least that removes some of the incentive for long-term clerkships."
Cusick said he is unsure whether Council can legally insert itself into the moonlighting issue. At least one clerk is doing legal research for a law firm that practices in this County. But Cusick said that question of judicial ethics should be resolved in the courts, not Council.

Controller Steve Barron, speaking for himself, condemned the moonlighting. "If I was the attorney on the other side, I'd be a little bit upset," he said. "The perception is there that the deck is stacked against me, and that shouldn't be when you walk into a courtroom."

Speaking as Controller, Barron is concerned about the $2.3 million paid to the County's 10 conflict counsels in recent years.

He also addressed Council on the law clerk question. He noted that the information that I supplied to Council had in fact been obtained from him, pursuant to an informal right-to-know request.

I have written to the court about these matters. I've received no written reply, but have been told a few things informally. Judges know not to write anything that you can say, and not to say anything that you can wink. Here's what I'm told.
  • Judges use no private attorneys as law clerks. But vendor records show that at least one Bethlehem attorney was recently paid to do legal research for a judge. Perhaps I misunderstood what I was told. This is why I like written replies.
  • Courts are willing to discuss the stipend question with Executive John Brown. I see no reason for the court to drag its feet on an issue where they are clearly wrong. Their refusal to end the stipend just proves that they do think they are entitled.
  • Courts are unaware of any clerk who does outside research for a Northampton County lawyer, so I named one clerk and one law firm.
There is some question whether Council has the authority to roll back the salaries, even for new hires. But Council should be able to limit the term of employment and can end the stipend, which violates the Home Rule Charter just as much as when the Register of Wills was collecting and pocketing a fee to do notaries.


Anonymous said...

and just think, these poor law clerks dressing up as lawyers and acting as if could also be doing this conflict issue in direct conflict with a time that is allready obligated too job number one! They question should be raised as too if they were on the time clock for northampton while doing a dressup some where else in some other county or state for that matter?

REpublican redd

Anonymous said...

Are These law clerks County Employees? If they are, the personnel office should do a desk audit of the Clerks and recommend an appropriate salary to Council for their approval. Council controls the purse strings. They can set the salary at whatever they so choose. If they are state employees that's a different matter..

Bernie O'Hare said...

They are county, not state, employees.

Anonymous said...

Where was Barron all these years that he did not know the facts?

Anonymous said...

Very good points. The judges want long term law clerks because nothing is done as taught in law school and they don't want some idealistic young attorney to disclose the truth like this http://thebluepaper.com/waste-management-of-the-florida-keys-donates-truck-to-haiti/ Totaly corrupt, well almost system.

Anonymous said...


ORDER AS TO MICHAEL FLECK THAT THE SENTENCING IS CONTINUED TO 2/6/2017 AT 03:00 PM in COURTROOM 11-A before HONORABLE JUAN R. SANCHEZ. Signed by HONORABLE JUAN R. SANCHEZ on 10/18/2016.10/18/2016 Entered and Copies E-Mailed. (kk, ) (Entered: 10/19/2016)

Bernie O'Hare said...

Your comment is OT and I posted about this several weeks ago.