Leadership Central Penn Goes to Court

Leadership Central Penn (LCP) wrapped up 2018 with a trip to the Columbia County Courthouse to learn about the law.  The Hon. Judge James graciously hosted the class for a morning session on the three types of law, the structure of Pennsylvania’s judicial system and his presentation, “The Cost of Justice.” The morning started with a substantive and procedural law overview by Judge James, and the following local attorneys:

  • Michael Smith, Esq. from Hummel, Lewis & Smith – Civil Law
  • David James, Esq. from Harding, Hill & Turowski – Domestics and Family Law
  • Christine Luschas, Esq. from Derr, Pursel, Luschas and Naparsteck – Domestics and Family Law
  • Rebecca Reimiller, Esq., Assistant District Attorney, Columbia County – Criminal Law

The class got an overview of each type of law and how the process works.  Each lawyer shared stories from their career that were entertaining, sad, scary and/or shocking.  Everyone realized that the law we see on television or read about in the news is not even close to the reality of what these professionals deal with on a daily basis.  The class thanks them for being willing to shared their knowledge and stories.

Judge James next presented an LCP staple (“The Cost of Justice”) educating the class on the societal and financial burdens of our legal system.  The class learned of some of the many innovative judicial programs like Drug and DUI Treatment Court, Veterans Court, Electronic Monitoring Home Detention Program and Juvenile Court Wood-Cutting Program for Restitution.  Programs like Drug and DUI court can help people recover, and not just be incarcerated.  Courts are constantly being tasked with controlling costs, while legislature continues to pass more laws to be enforced, with no additional funding for enforcement and adjudication. 

After a quick walk across Main St. in downtown Bloomsburg to the Greenly Center, the class was greeted by Adrienne Mael, CEO of the United Way of Columbia & Montour County.  She was joined by the following individuals:

  • Markie L. Troutman, Addictions Coordinator, Bloomsburg MAT Clinic
  • Colleen Brent, United Way Staff
  • Barbara Warunek, Court Programs & Development Director- Columbia County Courthouse
  • Samantha Barger, UW Intern

The class participants were permitted to move from station to station to learn about the United Way’s United in Recovery program and partners.  This included a mock-up of a traditional teenager’s bedroom with items where drugs and money could be hidden. All items were purchased online via Amazon and other websites. These included a fake wall outlet, lip balm that does more than fix chapped lips, a light bulb that hides your stuff, and so much more. Additional information was provided about the opiod epidemic and local, state and federal programs to address this issue.

After lunch, which was provided by Ponduce Farms, the participants met a panel from the Columbia County’s Court Judicial Advocacy Board (CJAB) subcommittee on education. The panelists included:

  • Ashley Mensch, Columbia County Family Center
  • April Miller, Columbia County Children and Youth Administrator
  • Denise Labuda, Columbia County Chief Juvenile Probation Officer
  • Michelle Freed, Domestic Relations

Each panel member told the story of what their organizations do and how they work collectively on the CJAB subcommittee.  The Foundation of the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce and United Way are both members of this subcommittee, as are some of the superintendents that class met a couple of months ago. 

Each organization is focused on youth programs to ensure kids from birth to adulthood have the supportive and nurturing environment then need to succeed as adults.  Many of these children live in bad situation, or have made some bad choices.  These ladies and their organization work to support these families and young people in the hopes of turning the ship around and headed in a more positive direction.  The class heard some heart wrenching stories of drugs, crime and abuse.  It was nice to know there are so many people working collectively toward solutions that make sense ethically, legally and morally with kids and families as the first priority.

The day was finished with a tour of the Columbia County EMS and new consolidated Columbia/Montour 911 center.  Here, the class saw that when 911 is dialed from a cell phone, technology helps pinpoint the location of the caller. While it won’t get first responders to the caller directly, it helps narrow the field. The 911 operators really are superheroes in headsets. This was one where television just might have it right. They deliver babies in cars along I-80, they help people keep loved ones alive with basic life support and CPR unless paramedics arrive, and help police track and catch reckless drivers all over the phone. Yes, they even get calls about people’s microwaves not working, or with questions about parades and toy donations. They do it all with professionalism, recognition attributed to first responders and grace.