Friday, December 3, 2010

Carolee Medico's MisGuided Attempt

Veteran reporter Jennifer Learn-Andes wrote an article yesterday that Luzerne County Prothontary Carolee Medico Olenginski filed a lawsuit in court challenging voter approved home rule’s elimination of her elected post.

The suit, filed by Prothonotary’s Office Solicitor Sam Stretton, argues that the keeping of civil records falls under the judicial system, and moving those duties to the executive branch would violate the state constitution.

“I’m not looking to save my job. I’m looking to protect the constitution and separation of powers between the judicial and executive branches of government,” Medico Olenginski said Wednesday. .

And that is when the fight started.

While the argument can be made that the Prothonotary's office is involved in record keeping of the courts present law is quite clear that counties choosing home rule can abolish that elective office. The prothonotary is the chief notary.


(b) Home rule counties. As provided by 42 Pa.C.S. § 2701(b) (relating toscope and purpose of chapter), a county home rule charter may supersede the provisions of 42 Pa.C.S. Ch. 27. The following unofficial summary of local law is provided for the general information of the public and system and related personnel, and shall not be construed as an authoritative interpretation of any provision of law:

(1) Delaware County. Section 801 of the charter provides that the elected
Register of Wills shall be the Clerk of the Orphans’ Court Division, and section 802 provides for the appointment by the Register, subject to the budgetary approval of the County Council, of a deputy or deputies and such other assistants as may be required. All other functions of the Office of the Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas are vested in an Office of Judicial Support, which the County Council is required by section 425 of the charter to establish by combining the offices of the Clerk of the Courts and Prothonotary. Section 1213 of the charter provides that the separate office of Clerk of the Courts was abolished on the first Monday of January 1978 and that the separate office of Prothonotary shall be abolished effective the first Monday of January 1980.

The following section is contained in the approval of home rule for Luzerne County.

Section 12.04—Elective Offices Abolished. The following elective offices are abolished effective with the end of the terms of office to which the officeholders were elected in 2007 or subsequently appointed: County Commissioners, Clerk of Courts, Coroner, Recorder of Deeds, Sheriff, and Treasurer. The following elective offices are abolished effective with the end of the terms of office to which the officeholders were elected in 2009 or subsequently appointed: Jury Commissioners, Prothonotary, and Register of Wills.

According to these records contained in the Pennsylvania Archives the following information on the office of Prothonotary is noted.

Whereas the 11 elected county officials are enumerated in the Pennsylvania Constitution, their powers and duties are prescribed by statutes which are scattered throughout the county codes and general state laws. Consolidation of certain elected offices is provided by state law in the smaller class counties involving the offices of prothonotary, clerk of courts, register of wills, clerk of the orphans' court, and recorder of deeds.

Here is a link to the court order in Allegheny County that abolished the Office of the Prothonotary and placed its functions in the single appointed office of the Director of Court Records.

Lackawanna County reorganized under Home Rule that created the Clerk of Judicial Records that has the powers, functions, and duties previously assigned by law to the Office of Prothonotary.

After reviewing all of this documentation Carolee Medico Olenginski should drop her legal action immediately to save the taxpayers of Luzerne County the expense of her futile attempt to remain in office.

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