Perils of a magisterial district judge
Northampton County Council is currently considering six leases for magisterial district judges. Those leases were held by Executive John Brown for eight weeks before the court insisted that Council should review them. Brown wanted to renegotiate terms already established by the courts.
Three Magisterial District Judges - Alicia Zito, Nancy Matos Gonzalez and Dan Corpora - were at a council committee meeting Oct. 18 to discuss the need for offices in which they can feel safe. Matos Gonzalez, who has presided in South Bethlehem for the past 26 years, spoke for them.
“Our court functions without any security personnel unless by chance a police officer happens to be there or a constable comes in for a hearing. There are some significant security lapses that really need to be addressed. We’re without some holding cells. We have prisoners being transported into areas that are right past the general public. We have crime victims that have to share a waiting area with the accused. It may be a gang-related matter. It may be a sex crime victim.
“Some of the offices at this point are antiquated in design, and it is the desire at this point to come up to date with industry standards.”
Matos Gonzalez said her new lease will help protect the people in her courtroom, her staff and law enforcement.
Under the new leases negotiated, it is up to the landlord to design the court facility to the satisfaction of the courts.
One important feature, according to Matos Gonzalez, is a separate entrance for her and her staff.
She said that less than two weeks ago her staff encountered a verbally aggressive and mentally disturbed male who wanted the judge to drive him to a consulate so he could return to his home country.
President Judge Steve Baratta said that these leases are part of a long-term process. He said that the courts are looking for secure facilities, and that Judge Matos Gonzalez definitely needs a new courtroom.
At this point, there is no plan to spend money on security measures. But Baratta acknowledges that there are “difficult people” who give them reason to feel insecure.
Salient lease terms are as follows:
Judge Zito - $4,810.63 per month for 269 Blue Valley Drive, Bangor, owned by United Hoisting Company, Inc. (10 years)
Judge Grifo - $4,290 per month for 400 Northampton Street, Easton, owned by 400 Northampton LP (10 years)
Judge Corpora - $3,500 per month for Suites 700C and D, St. John St and Philadelphia Pike, owned by NIDI Group, t/a Plaza at Crossroads (10 years)
Judge Taschner - $3,699 per month for 3 Weller Court, owned by Palmer Tp.(6 years)
Judge Matos Ginzalez - $5,338 per month for 322 E 3rd St, Bethlehem, owned by Polk Street Dvlpmnt Ass’ts, LP (12 years) (Lou Pektor)
Judge Yetter - $2,999 per month for 1710 Butler St, Easton,owned by James Garofalo.(1 year)