LOCK HAVEN - The Clinton County Court of Common Pleas marked a changing of the guard Friday, as Judge Craig P. Miller was sworn in as President Judge.
The ceremony was conducted by President Judge J. Michael Williamson, who leaves that title behind to accept the appellation "Senior Judge" at the stroke of midnight Jan. 1.
"I have to keep reminding Judge Miller that I still have three more days," Judge Williamson joked, as he passed the gavel of leadership to Miller.
Clinton County President Judge Craig Miller, left, was sworn in by outgoing President Judge J. Michael Williamson on Friday.
Speaking of his retirement, Judge Williamson remarked in trademark style, "that while the state's supreme court has been notorious for delaying action on tasks, the higher court did succeed in reminding him - four times - that he would be six days short on his yearly wages due to calculations based on the judicial year."
Williamson said Judge Miller was extremely qualified and well prepared and he expected nothing less than a smooth transition.
"The county is in excellent hands," he said.
Miller took the time to offer words of thanks to a great many individuals, including the judges he served under. As a judge, he said he will continue with his promise of never forgetting what it is like for attorneys to practice the law.
The special court session was marked by the attendance of several dignitaries, including Clinton County District Attorney Michael Salisbury, the public defenders, local members of the Bar Association, county commissioners Joel Long and Jeff Snyder, Clinton County Sheriff Charles Ankney, and family members and friends of Judge Miller.
Miller has two sons, Frank and Matthew, and two stepsons, Jason and Matt.
In attendance were Miller's wife Diane, son Matthew and brother, Terry.
Miller said he was pleased that his three most important things in life - family, faith and the law - were coming together on this special day.
Born in Renovo, Aug. 8, 1958 he was admitted to the Bar in 1983.
Miller received a bachelor of arts degree from Lock Haven University in 1980 and his law degree from the Dickinson School of Law in 1983.
His professional career began as law clerk to the Honorable Carson V. Brown, President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Clinton County 1983 to 1985.
Miller also served as assistant district attorney in 1985; public defender from 1985 to 2008; and has been a member of the Clinton County Bar Association (President - 2004 to 2005) and Pennsylvania Bar Association; and past member of the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association
He was elected Judge, Clinton County Court of Common Pleas, January 2008.
Since 1952, Clinton County has comprised the entire twenty-fifth judicial district of Pennsylvania. Prior to 1952, it shared its judicial districts with two or more other counties. In 1839, when Clinton County was formed, it was part of the fourth judicial district along with five other counties.
The move was made necessary by the mandatory retirement of Williamson, who leaves his position as president judge and becomes a senior judge accompanying his reaching the mandatory retirement age.
The mandatory retirement kicks in at the end of the calendar year during which a judge turns 70.
As senior judge in the new year, Miller takes the reigns of the local court system, including assignment of duties, control of the finances and scheduling of hearings.
Williamson will continue his duties as a judge for the county, and will maintain many of his responsibilities until the second county judge is chosen by citizens in an election. After that, he will accept special assignments offered by the state court system in situations stemming from conflicts of interest in this or other counties, or to cover for other judges who fall ill or are for some reason unable to assume their duties.
In Pennsylvania, certified senior judges are all former or retired judges who have not been defeated for reelection, with at least 10 years of service, or judges like Williamson who have reached the age of 70, with at least six years of service.
Miller joins five other members of the judiciary who hold the distinction of becoming Clinton County President Judge:
From 1939 to 1952 the President Judge was Henry Hipple from Lock Haven.
From 1952 to 1974 the President Judge was Abraham H. Lipez from Lock Haven.
From 1974 to 1994 the President Judge was Carson V. Brown from Lock Haven.
From 1992 to 2007 the President Judge is Richard N. Saxton, Jr. from Lock Haven.
From 1994 to 2012 the President Judge is J. Michael Williamson from Lock Haven.
And now, from the first day of 2013, the President Judge Judge will be Craig P. Miller from Lock Haven.