A Centre County district judge has resigned to take a job in Pittsburgh.
District Judge Leslie Dutchcot, of magisterial district 49-2-01, resigned effective Sunday, court administration announced Monday. Her district includes College Township voter districts north and west and Ferguson, Halfmoon and Patton townships.
President Judge Thomas King Kistler announced in a release that senior magisterial judges will be assigned by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts to handle the district’s caseload.
Assistant Court Administrator Barbara Gallo said Dutchcot took a job with a private law firm outside of Centre County. Dutchcot, who was born in Greensburg, declined to say which firm she is going to.
She also earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and government at the University of Pittsburgh and a doctorate at Duquesne.
“As many people know a job search is a long process, and sometimes the right opportunity comes up at a strange time,” Dutchcot said. “I was engaged in the process for quite some time, and Centre County has been wonderful to me. I’m back in Pittsburgh, however, and that feels like going home to me.”
Dutchcot was serving her second term as judge when she resigned. She began to serve the office Jan. 7, 2008 and was re-elected in 2013. Elections and Voter Registration Director Joyce McKinley said her office would need to research replacement protocol for the vacancy, as this is an uncommon scenario for the county.
Dutchcot said she would not be involved in the process of filling the vacant seat.
According to Kistler, judges are elected in municipal election years, meaning another election for judge won’t happen again until 2017. In the interim, the court has two options.
First, he said, is to use current and retired judges to help handle the work, as Dutchcot’s release indicated that senior judges will be assigned to handle the caseload. This includes former judges Ronald Horner and Daniel Hoffman.
The other option, he said, is to ask the state legislature and governor to try to fill the vacancy. Kistler said he has not had any conversations yet with the legislature regarding this option.
“We’re going to staff the office with who we have for now,” he said, “until we see if it’s possible to fill the office.”
The State College office of Steinbacher, Stahl, Goodall and Yurchak, which lists Dutchcot as counsel to its firm, declined comment on the move.
Dutchcot’s presiding over Jerry Sandusky’s bail was a point of contention in 2011.
Sandusky was released on $100,000 unsecured bail, and she also had an online resume that raised questions of whether she had a conflict of interest.
On the website for Goodall & Yurchak, Dutchcot lists The Second Mile, which Sandusky founded as a nonprofit for at-risk youth, among her volunteer efforts. The Second Mile’s annual report for 2009 also listed her and her husband as making a donation of $500 to $999 to the charity.
Dutchcot also volunteered with Meals on Wheels, Centre County PAWS and Camp Cadet.
She also participated in the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts Weighted Caseload Study, which analyzed caseloads in judicial districts and classes of counties and implemented the Magisterial District Court Veterans Diversion Program in the county.