Superior Court judges hold court at the Luzerne County Courthouse

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June 22 – WILKES-BARRE – Seven Pennsylvania Superior Court justices made a special appearance at the Luzerne County Courthouse on Wednesday to hear appeal arguments and pay tribute to the first presiding judge of the appeals court who hailed from Wilkes-Barre.

Charles Edmund Rice, a lawyer and Luzerne County trial judge, was appointed as the first presiding judge of the Superior Court when the court of appeals came into existence in 1895, serving in the honorary office until 1915. Rice died May 16, 1919.

“The law was his mistress,” attorney Girard J. Mecadon said while acknowledging that he stole the line from Rice’s obituary.

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Before the Superior Court judges headed to court in a courtroom, Rice’s tribute took place at the Rotunda Courthouse and was broadcast statewide by the PCN network.

Eleven of the 12 Luzerne County judges attended, including former county judge and president of the Superior Court, Justice Emeritus Correale F. Stevens.

Stevens spoke about the functions of the Superior Court and how the appeals court handles nearly 8,000 appellate cases each year, making the Pennsylvania court one of the busiest in the nation.

Luzerne County Chairman Justice Michael T. Vough spoke of the privilege of working in one of the finest courthouses in the Commonwealth. Vough said he was usually one of the first to enter the courthouse and found himself gazing at the history of the building which opened in 1909.

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Vough further commended the officials employed at the courthouse for their service to the public.

Stevens and Vough were honored by Mecadon as president of the Luzerne County Bar Association and the Wilkes-Barre Law & Library Association.

As current and former Luzerne County presiding judges, Mecadon said their portraits will be placed inside the courthouse library along with other former county presiding judges.

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Anthony TP Brooks, director of the Wilkes-Barre Preservation Society, spoke about Rice’s legacy while attorney Catherine R. O’Donnell discussed efforts in the second half of the 1800s to form the Court Upper Pennsylvania.

Wednesday’s event had been in the works for two years, which began when O’Donnell was president of the Luzerne County Bar Association, but delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Superior Court, in an effort to educate the public about the Court of Appeal, hears appeals in other Commonwealth courthouses.

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