Oct. 26—SUNBURY — Northumberland County President Judge Charles Saylor is up for retention on the Nov. 2 ballot and the president judge wants to stay there as high-profile cases move onto the judicial calendar.
Saylor and Gary Norton are the only two local judges facing retention this year. Norton is a judge in the 26th Judicial District covering Columbia and Montour counties. Saylor has served as a judge since 2001. He won retention in 2011 and his second 10-year-term expires this year.
Saylor said he has been instrumental in launching several programs, including Veterans Treatment Court, Adoption Day and bringing CASA — court-appointed special advocates — to the county.
As president judge, Saylor also led the county's calendar and scheduled during 2020 when COVID-19 struck. Saylor kept the courts moving along, despite not being able to function normally. Saylor utilized video conferencing for hearings, pre-trial motions and conferences.
"This is something we were doing anyway but now we are going to continue to use these methods more and more," he said.
Saylor has been involved in thousands of cases through the years, and said he prides himself on listening to each case, reviewing the law, and not just being a "rubber stamp" for anyone.
"I look at each case and give it the attention it deserves," he said. "I don't just take plea agreements if I feel they are not warranted."
Saylor said it is important to him to remain on the bench as he has started a program that will bring trials to the county each month.
The county's district attorney's office is in severe need of help as major crimes have struck the area and Saylor said he wants to put cases on the court schedule often and get them to trials as soon as possible.
"They need help for sure," he said. "I try to work with the office as much as possible to get cases moving along."
Saylor, who has been the president judge for the past five years, acknowledged the district attorney's office is struggling to keep up because of being short-staffed.
Saylor also said if he is retained, he has plans on starting a truancy task force to combat the rising cases in the county. Saylor also said he wants to see the much-anticipated courthouse renovations through.
"I am excited about the renovations and I would love to be here when the project is complete," he said.
County Commissioner Chairman Sam Scicchitano said Saylor's leadership at the courthouse is extremely valuable to the county.
"Judge Saylor has been a pleasure to work through the years," the commissioner said. "His leadership and his cooperation with the commissioners have always been terrific. With the knowledge he has and the advice he gives, our county residents are very lucky to have him here with us."
Saylor serves as the county's prison board chairman and Scicchitano said Saylor continued to provide input for building the new prison in Coal Township. "He is instrumental to us in so many ways," Scicchitano said. "When he speaks, we listen and take everything he says into consideration."
Saylor was retained for a second term in November 2011. He is eligible now by virtue of a recent amendment to the Constitution of Pennsylvania in 2016 extending the retirement age of judges to age 75. Saylor is presently 71.
Saylor also served as president of the statewide Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges in 2019 and he continues to preside over major criminal and civil cases, as well as matters involving Children and Youth Services and served as a co-editor of Pennsylvania's original Bench Book on foster care cases.
"One of the reasons I enjoy being a judge is the challenge of dealing with the variety and significance to the parties of the matters that come before me," Saylor said. "With my 20 years of experience as a judge I can effectively handle the increased caseloads of today. In doing my work, I strive to be not just knowledgable of the law but to also use common sense."
Saylor said, if retained, he plans on adding more court days to his own schedule.
"I want to have more court time," he said. "We have this backlog of cases and I want to be able to free up more time to get these cases in front of the court."
Saylor said after he leaves the bench for the day, the job doesn't stop. "This is where I must do legal research and continue to make sure the courts are running smoothly," he said.
Saylor has been married for 49 years to his wife, Marty. They have two children and three grandchildren. Saylor was admitted to the bar in 1974, after graduating from the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. Prior to going on the bench, he was a practicing attorney with a Sunbury law firm, now Wiest, Muolo, Noon, Swinehart & Bathgate. Saylor and his wife reside in Northumberland.