United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
- 1 Vacancy warning level
- 2 Active judges
- 3 Jurisdiction
- 4 Caseloads
- 5 Notable cases
- 6 History
- 7 Federal courthouse
- 8 See also
- 9 External links
- 10 References
The United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania is one of ninety-four United States district courts. When decisions of the court are appealed, they are appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals based in downtown Philadelphia at the James Byrne Courthouse.
Vacancy warning level
There are no pending nominations for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Article III judges
|Judge Yvette Kane||1953||Donaldsonville, LA||Clinton||10/22/1998 - Present||2006 - 2013||Edwin Kosik||Nicholls State U., B.A., 1973||Tulane Law, J.D., 1976|
|Chief Judge Christopher Conner||1957||Harrisburg, PA||W. Bush||07/29/2002 - Present||2013 - Present||Sylvia Rambo||Cornell, 1979||Dickinson Law, 1982|
|Judge John E. Jones||1955||Pottsville, PA||W. Bush||07/31/2002 - Present||James McClure||Dickinson College, B.A., 1977||Dickinson Law, J.D., 1980|
|Judge Malachy Mannion||1953||Montreal, Canada||Obama||12/21/2012 - Present||A. Richard Caputo||University of Scranton, B.S., 1976||Pace U. Law, J.D., 1979|
|Judge Robert David Mariani||1950||Scranton, PA||Obama||10/19/2011 - Present||James M. Munley||Villanova U., A.B., 1972||Syracuse U. Law, J.D., 1976|
|Judge Matthew Brann||1965||Elmira, NY||Obama||12/21/2012 - Present||Thomas Vanaskie||Notre Dame, B.A., 1987||Pennsylvania State U. Law, J.D., 1990|
Active Article III judges by appointing political party
This graph displays the percent of active judges by the party of the appointing president and does not reflect how a judge may rule on specific cases or their own political preferences.
|Senior Judge Richard Caputo||Clinton||11/12/1997 - 03/30/2009||03/31/2009 - Present||Brown, A.B., 1960||University of Pennsylvania Law School, LL.B., 1963|
|Senior Judge James Munley||Clinton||10/22/1998 - 01/29/2009||01/30/2009 - Present||University of Scranton, B.S., 1958||Temple U. Law, LL.B., 1963|
|Senior Judge William Nealon||12/13/1962 - 01/01/1989||1976 - 1989||12/31/1988 - Present||Villanova U., 1947||Catholic U. of America Law, 1950|
|Senior Judge Richard Conaboy||Carter||07/24/1979 - 08/31/1992||1989 - 1992||09/01/1992 - Present||University of Scranton, B.A., 1945||Catholic U. of America Law, LL.B., 1950|
|Senior Judge Sylvia Rambo||Carter||07/24/1979 - 04/17/2001||1992 - 1999||04/18/2001 - Present||Dickinson College, B.A., 1958||Dickinson Law, J.D., 1962|
|Senior Judge William Caldwell||Reagan||03/19/1982 - 05/30/1994||05/31/1994 - Present||Dickinson College, A.B., 1948||Dickinson Law, LL.B., 1951|
|Senior Judge Edwin Kosik||Reagan||06/16/1986 - 07/14/1996||07/15/1996 - Present||Wilkes College, B.A., 1949||Dickinson Law, LL.B., 1951|
Senior judges by appointing political party
This graph displays the percent of senior judges by the party of the appointing president and does not reflect how a judge may rule on specific cases or their own political preferences.
|Magistrate Judge Thomas Blewitt||02/21/1992 - Present||University of Scranton, B.A., 1972||Temple U. Law, J.D., 1983|
|Magistrate Judge William Arbuckle||07/29/2008 - Present||Grove City College, B.A., 1971||Akron U. Law, J.D., 1974|
|Chief Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson||08/15/2009 - Present||Pennsylvania State U., B.A., 1977||University of Pennsylvania Law, J.D., 1980|
|Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab||12/03/2012 - Present||Wilkes University||Widener University School of Law, 1992|
|Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick||2013-Present||Pennsylvania State University||Tulane University School of Law|
The Western District of Pennsylvania has original jurisdiction over cases filed within its jurisdiction. These cases can include civil and criminal matters that fall under federal law.
Because Harrisburg, the state capital, is located within the district's jurisdiction, most suits against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are filed in the Middle District. Similarly, because York County Prison served as the largest Immigration and Naturalization Service facility in the Northeast, the Middle District previously adjudicated a large number of immigration cases. The courts of appeal are now responsible for most judicial review of immigration decisions, bypassing the Middle District and other district courts.
The geographic jurisdiction of the Middle District of Pennsylvania consists of approximately one-half of Pennsylvania. The following counties form the Middle District:
- Adams County
- Bradford County
- Cameron County
- Carbon County
- Centre County
- Clinton County
- Columbia County
- Cumberland County
- Dauphin County
- Franklin County
- Fulton County
- Huntingdon County
- Juniata County
- Lackawanna County
- Lebanon County
- Luzerne County
- Lycoming County
- Mifflin County
- Monroe County
- Montour County
- Northumberland County
- Perry County
- Pike County
- Potter County
- Schuylkill County
- Snyder County,
- Sullivan County
- Susquehanna County
- Tioga County
- Union County
- Wayne County
- Wyoming County
- York County
|Federal Court Caseload Statistics*|
|Year||Starting case load:||Cases filed:||Total cases:||Cases terminated:||Remaining cases:||Median time(Criminal)**:||Median time(Civil)**:||3 Year Civil cases#:||Vacant posts:##||Trials/Post|
|*All statistics are taken from the Official Federal Courts' Website and reflect the calendar year through September. **Time in months from filing to completion.|
#This statistic includes cases which have been appealed in higher courts. ##This is the total number of months that any judicial posts had spent vacant that year.
For a searchable list of opinions, please see Opinions of the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
|• Debunked science leads to overturned conviction (2014)||Click for summary→|
|After 24 years, Han Tak Lee is a free man again. He spent those 24 years in prison for the arson death of his daughter, Ji Yun Lee. The case against Lee, who was tried in 1990, was built on now debunked science on how to spot arson, some of it being called superstition. U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin Carlson released Lee, now 79-years-old, on an unsecured bond and allowed him to travel to New York City, where Lee intends to live. Pennsylvania has 120 days to decide whether it wants to retry Lee.
|• Judge overturns decades old conviction (2014)||Click for summary→|
|Tyrone Moore was charged and convicted with the October 1982 murder of Nicholas Romanchick during the robbery of the Forty Fort Animal Hospital in Pennsylvania. His initial sentence was the death penalty, but, in 2000, a county court judge vacated that sentence after finding Moore's trial counsel was ineffective. Moore was subsequently given life without parole. After more appeals, however, his case reached Christopher Conner, a judge for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, who determined that Moore's trial counsel was so ineffective that justice requires that Moore receive a new trial entirely. Judge Conner found that trial counsel was deficient for not calling certain witnesses, nor were witnesses impeached properly. He overturned the 1983 conviction and told the state of Pennsylvania it has 90 days to retry Moore or release him.
| • Man sentenced in illegal gun case (2014)|
Judge(s):Sylvia Rambo (U.S. v. Hill)
|Click for summary→|
|On April 22, 2014, Judge Sylvia Rambo sentenced Carlos C. Hill, a convicted felon, to almost twenty years in prison for his possession of a stolen firearm. In September 2012, Hill was arrested and indicted after brandishing a stolen gun at a woman in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A jury found Hill guilty of the charges in March 2013. Rambo ordered that Hill serve a 235-month prison term, as well as a five-year term of supervised probation after his release.|
| • Leader of "Felony Lane Gang" sentenced for crime spree (2014)|
Judge(s):William Caldwell (U.S. v. Russ)
|Click for summary→|
|On March 19, 2014, Senior Judge William Caldwell sentenced Travis J. Russ to almost sixteen years in prison for his participation as the leader of the "Felony Lane Gang," a group of thieves who wreaked havoc upon patrons of national state parks, stealing more than $1 million. Russ served as leader of the gang during a five-year crime spree involving car break-ins, identity theft, and bank fraud. From August to October 2012, the gang stole from more than 100 people in Pennsylvania state parks before being caught. Six other gang members were sentenced prior to Russ, with the next highest sentence after Russ's being that of forty-six months in federal prison.|
| • Millions owed after fatal tractor trailer crash (2014)|
Judge(s):William Caldwell (Claxton, et al v. Singh and PVR Transport, 1:11-cv-00714-WWC)
|Click for summary→|
|On January 6, 2014, Senior Judge William Caldwell issued a verdict, ordering that the defendants pay more than $2.1 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the plaintiff. In the underlying case, Eric Claxton, the driver of a tractor trailer, crashed into Sukhwinder Singh's tractor trailer after Singh pulled onto the highway without using flashers or checking for traffic. Claxton and his passenger died after suffering severe burns in the fatal crash. Claxton's wife, Kamilah Claxton, sued both the driver of the tractor trailer and his employer, Sukhchan Singh (doing business as PVR Transport), alleging negligence, vicarious liability, and wrongful death. Claxton filed an unopposed motion for summary judgment in the case, and Judge Caldwell granted it following a bench trial in November 2013, finding that "both defendants acted with wanton and reckless indifference toward decedent." In a separate verdict, Caldwell ordered that the defendants pay Claxton $2 million for lost wages, $100,000 for pain and suffering, and $1,290.50 for estate administration fees. Caldwell also ordered that the defendants pay Claxton $100,000 in punitive damages.|
| • Overdraft banking class action settles for $2.5 million (2013)|
Judge(s):Robert Mariani (Johnson v. Community Bank, N.A. and First Liberty Bank and Trust, 3:12-cv-01405-RDM)
|Click for summary→|
|On November 25, 2013, Judge Robert Mariani granted final approval to a class settlement between the plaintiff members of the class and the defendants, Community Bank NA and its subsidiary, First Liberty Bank and Trust. In the underlying case, plaintiffs filed suit in July 2012 alleging the banks' "unfair and unconscionable assessment and collection of excessive overdraft fees," specifically, that the banks purposefully re-sequenced the way in which debit transactions posted to customers' accounts in order to increase overdraft fees. Plaintiffs claimed that all charges over the limit were subject to additional overdraft fees, as opposed to only the first charge incurring the fee. The parties mediated their claims in January 2013, and presented a proposed $2.5 million settlement to the court which was signed in March 2013. About 50,000 members were included in the settlement class, and none of them objected, with only five opting out. The settlement funds were to be distributed pro rata to class members, with the exception of the named plaintiffs, who would each receive $5,000 payments. In weighing whether to grant final approval to the class settlement agreement, Judge Mariani noted that it must be "fair, reasonable, and adequate." In so doing, he stated that "litigation in this case could be very complex, expensive, and protracted, even compared to other class actions." Finding that the proposed settlement fulfilled the requirements, Mariani granted it his final approval, awarding the plaintiffs their awards, fees, and costs.|
| • Pennsylvania same-sex marriage challenge (2013-2014)|
Judge(s):John E. Jones III (Whitewood, et al v. Wolf, et al, Case 1:2013cv01861)
|Click for summary→|
|On July 9, 2013, in the wake of the United States Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Windsor, the Pennsylvania ACLU filed suit on behalf of 23 plaintiffs in an attempt to strike the state's ban on gay marriage, alleging that it violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. In May 2014, Judge Jones permanently barred the State of Pennsylvania from denying same-sex couples marriage licenses. Judge Jones did not issue a stay on his ruling pending appeal, instead writing:
Attorney General Kathleen Kane notably refused to defend the state's law, leaving Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Corbett to step in to handle the task. A motion to dismiss was filed where the state argued that under the United States Supreme Court's decision in Baker v. Nelson, a federal court lacked jurisdiction over the state's law. On November 15, 2013, Judge Jones denied the motion, rejecting the notion that the 1972 decision cited by the state left federal courts powerless. On December 9, 2013, the state requested permission to file an interlocutory appeal on the question of law to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and Judge Jones denied that request on December 17, 2013.For more on cases involving same-sex marriage bans, see Same-sex marriage in the federal courts.
| • Whistleblower judge in "Kids for Cash" case cannot sue certain defendants (2013)|
Judge(s):A. Richard Caputo (Lokuta v. Sallemi, et al, 3:13-cv-00288-ARC)
|Click for summary→|
|On October 9, 2013, Judge A. Richard Caputo ruled that former Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Ann H. Lokuta could not sue several of the defendants named in her suit for reinstatement to the bench. In the underlying case, Lokuta filed suit in February 2013 against two former judges (Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr. and Michael T. Conahan), both of whom are now in prison for accepting millions of dollars in kickbacks to send children to for-profit detention centers, as well as five court administrators for their alleged participation in a conspiracy to have her removed from the bench following her service as an FBI informant in the "Kids for Cash" scandal. Lokuta's complaint asserted numerous civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, the federal civil conspiracy statute, as well as violations of her rights under the First, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments. In March 2013, the five court administrator defendants filed separate motions to dismiss Lokuta's complaint. Caputo later granted the five motions to dismiss as to the court administrator defendants because Lokuta's suit was not timely filed, and the two-year statute of limitations on her claims had already expired. Further, as discussed in Caputo's decision, Lokuta was barred from re-litigating issues already decided on the state court level, and two of the named defendants in the suit were entitled to prosecutorial immunity. Though five of the original defendants were removed from Lokuta's complaint, the suit against former Judges Ciavarella and Conahan still stands.|
| • Dismissal of challenge to mandatory judicial retirement age (2013)|
Judge(s):John E. Jones III (Lerner, et al. v. Corbett, et al., Case 1:12-cv-02577-JEJ)
|Click for summary→|
|In Pennsylvania, the state’s constitutionally mandated retirement age for judges is 70. Several state judges nearing the age of retirement decided to challenge the rule, claiming it was discriminatory under the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiffs in the case alleged that forcing judges to retire at the age of 70 was based on preconceived notions of senior citizens’ deteriorating cognitive abilities, relying heavily on the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
Judge John E. Jones, III dismissed the complaint, noting that the arguments presented were “unconvincing.” Jones further ruled that the plaintiff judges did not have a due process claim as they did not have a constitutionally protected property interest in continued judicial employment – and if they did, it would have been precluded by the state’s mandatory retirement age. Jones concluded his opinion dismissing the case by commenting on the juxtaposition between state judges versus federal judges: “There is at least a superficial irony in having a judge who is appointed for life under Article III of the United States Constitution rule against his judicial colleagues on the courts of this Commonwealth who must hang up their robes at age 70. And we confess that this causes us no small amount of discomfort. But at the end of the day, it is for the citizens of the Commonwealth and their elected representatives to amend and alter the subject provision, not this Court.”The plaintiff judges in the case appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where the lower court opinion rendered by Judge Jones was affirmed.
The District of Pennsylvania was established by Congress on September 24, 1789, with one post to cover the entire state. On April 20, 1818, Congress divided the district into the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Western District of Pennsylvania with one post each. On March 2, 1901, Congress again redefined the boundaries of the district, transitioning a portion of both districts to the newly formed Middle District of Pennsylvania. Over time, five additional judicial posts were added to the Middle District of Pennsylvania for a total of six current posts.
The following table highlights the development of judicial posts for the Middle District of Pennsylvania:
|September 24, 1789||1 Stat. 73||1 (Whole state)|
|March 2, 1901||31 Stat. 880||1|
|February 28, 1929||45 Stat. 1344||2|
|July 24, 1946||60 Stat. 654||3(1 shared temporary)|
|February 10, 1954||68 Stat. 8||2|
|May 19, 1961||75 Stat. 80||3|
|June 2, 1970||84 Stat. 294||4(1 Temporary)|
|October 20, 1978||92 Stat. 1629||5|
|December 1, 1990||104 Stat. 5089||6|
Former chief judges
In order to qualify for the office of chief judge in one of the federal courts, a judge must have been in active service on the court for at least one year, be under the age of 65, and have not previously served as chief judge. A vacancy in the office of chief judge is filled by the judge highest in seniority among the group of qualified judges. The chief judge serves for a term of seven years or until age 70, whichever occurs first. The age restrictions are waived if no members of the court would otherwise be qualified for the position. Unlike the Chief Justice of the United States, a chief judge returns to active service after the expiration of his or her term and does not create a vacancy on the bench by the fact of his or her promotion.
For more information on the judges of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, see former federal judges of the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
There are three federal courthouses that serve the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
- Harrisburg - Ronald Reagan Federal Building and Courthouse.
- Scranton - William J. Nealon Federal Building and Courthouse.
- Williamsport - Herman T. Schneebeli Federal Building and Courthouse
- Wilkes-Barre - Max Rosenn U.S. Courthouse
- Official website
- Opinions of the Middle District of Pennsylvania
- US Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
- Judges of the Middle District of Pennsylvania
- Offices of the United States Attorneys, Official list
- PennLive.com, "Harrisburg man sentenced to 19 1/2 years in federal prison in gun case," April 22, 2014
- U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania, "Press Release: Harrisburg Man Sentenced To Prison On Firearms Charges As Part Of On-Going Partnership To Prosecute Violent Crime," April 22, 2014
- PennLive.com, "Leader of 'Felony Lane Gang' gets federal prison for thefts from park patrons," March 19, 2014
- Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Leader of Million-Dollar Felony Lane Gang Sentenced to More Than 15 Years in Prison," March 19, 2014
- Courthouse News Service, "Truck Driver Gets the Hammer for Fatal Crash," November 18, 2013
- Courthouse News Service, "Rookie Trucker Owes Millions for Fatal Crash," January 13, 2014
- Courthouse News Service, "Regional Bank Settles Overdraft Issue for $2.5M," December 4, 2013
- CNN.com, "Federal judge rules same-sex marriage ban in Pennsylvania is unconstitutional," May 20, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- The New York Times, "Judge Strikes Down Pennsylvania's Gay Marriage Ban," May 20, 2014 accessed on May 22, 2014
- ABC 6 Action News, "Pennsylvania Attorney General won't defend gay marriage ban," July 11, 2013
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Pennsylvania gay marriage ban to face court test," November 15, 2013
- Philadelphia Inquirer, "Judge clears way for trial on Pa. gay marriage ban," November 17, 2013
- Associated Press, "Judge in Pa. gay marriage suit nixes state appeal," December 17, 2013
- Courthouse News Service, "Just Judge Seeks Reinstatement After 'Kids for Cash' Corruption," February 8, 2013
- Citizens' Voice, "Judge removes defendants from Lokuta suit," October 11, 2013
- Courthouse News Service, "'Kids for Cash' Informant Can't Sue Court Officials," October 21, 2013
- Pensylvania Record, "Federal judge dismisses suit by Pa. judges challenging mandatory judicial retirement age," September 25, 2013 (timed out)
- Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, "PA Judges Lose Federal Challenge to Mandatory Retirement," September 25, 2013
- PennLive.com, "U.S. Appeals Court backs Pa. judge retirement mandate," April 29, 2014
- History of the Districts of Pennsylvania on the Federal Judicial Center website
- United States Courts, Frequently Asked Questions
- United States Courts, "On Being Chief Judge," February 2009
|Magistrate judges||Thomas Blewitt • William Arbuckle • Martin C. Carlson • Susan E. Schwab • Karoline Mehalchick •|
|Former Article III judges||
Thomas Vanaskie • James McClure • Robert Wodrow Archbald • Charles Witmer • Albert Williams Johnson • Albert Leisenring Watson • Frederick Follmer • Robert Herman • John William Murphy • Michael Sheridan •
|Former Chief judges|