Representatives of the municipalities served by the magisterial district court in Elizabethtown have met with Lancaster County President Judge Dennis E. Reinaker and his chief administrator to discuss their concerns about the possibility of closing the court.
West Donegal Township Manager John O. Yoder III described the meeting to his township’s supervisors at their meeting on Monday, May 21. In addition to Yoder, Elizabethtown Borough Manager Roni Ryan, Mount Joy Township Manager Justin Evans and Conoy Township Secretary-Treasurer Kathy Hipple met with Reinaker.
Reinaker had brought up the idea of closing the Elizabehtown court after Magisterial District Judge Jayne F. Duncan resigned in early April. Yoder said Reinaker told them that no final decisions have been made and any court closing must be approved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. But the idea being considered is to close the Elizabethtown court and have the cases now heard there moved to the court in Mount Joy Borough. The cases from Rapho Township and Manheim Borough, which are now heard in Mount Joy, would move to the court in Lititz.
Yoder said a flaw in that plan is that the court would be at the very edge of the district. The court is in the second half of a 10-year lease on the space in Mount Joy; Yoder said it is often difficult for the court system to rent commercial space because nearby businesses do not like being next to a court with police cars pulling up frequently with suspects in orange jumpsuits being brought in.
“I have property right underneath the township building; we’re more than happy to rent it to you,” Yoder said he told Reinaker, referring to the former headquarters of the Elizabethtown Regional Sewer Authority, which has moved into its own building.
Yoder said another possibility would be the current Elizabethtown Borough building, since the borough’s administrative offices are planned to move elsewhere. That building contains the Elizabethtown Borough police station and a regional booking center used by several police departments, making it a convenient place for crime suspects to be brought before a judge.
For the time being, though, the Elizabethtown court will remain open, but without a judge permanently assigned to it.
“This court will stay open as a filing location,” Yoder said, adding that judges will be brought in from elsewhere when a hearing needs to be held.
How long it will take for any change to be approved by the state Supreme Court is unclear.
“It could happen tomorrow; it could take three years,” Yoder said.