Attorneys interested in pursuing a court case over the timing of Luzerne County’s district attorney race will have until June 4 to submit a letter of interest.
Interested lawyers must have at least five years of experience in election law.
An estimate of the cost of this filing won’t be available until prospective attorneys submit their pricing.
These details came during the first meeting Monday of county council’s Special Election Decision Committee.
All six Republican county council members had voted May 11 to create the ad hoc committee to retain outside legal counsel and seek a court ruling on whether the district attorney’s race should be on the November general election ballot.
This court action would seek a ruling on a county election board decision.
An election board majority decided April 28 the race must be on the Nov. 2 ballot under new state legislation governing DA vacancies. The county Democratic and Republican party organizations would each be able to choose a contender.
Republican Sam Sanguedolce, previously first assistant DA, was automatically appointed to fill the post March 25, when Stefanie Salavantis resigned to run for county judge.
Several Republican council members argued an “unbiased” court ruling is warranted because attorneys have offered conflicting interpretations on the length of Sanguedolce’s appointment under the new state legislation.
All five Democratic county council members had opposed the plan to challenge the election board’s decision. Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck had said she does not believe council has standing to challenge the election board’s decision and said the legal bill should not “come to council.”
Council Chairman Tim McGinley had said the election timing is “clearly an election board decision” that can be disputed by others if warranted. He argued council should “stay away” from decisions of the independent election board.
McGinley, a Democrat, assigned himself to serve on the ad hoc committee along with Republican Council members Kendra Radle and LeeAnn McDermott, with Radle serving as chair.
The committee agreed Monday it will narrow down the applicants to three attorneys and present them to the full council for its majority selection.
Initially, the plan was to pay for the outside legal counsel from the county Office of Law’s budget.
Radle said Monday she believes it should be covered by council’s budget because the attorney would be “technically carrying out the will of council.”
McGinley said a transfer from the county reserve would be necessary in that case because council’s budget is “very lean” and has no funds set aside for attorneys.
Although the court challenge is in the works, the county’s law office plans to proceed with carrying out the election board’s decision on a November DA race. All political parties registered in the county must be notified of their option to choose a DA contender.
Presumably, an injunction would have to be filed and obtained to stop the party nomination process from proceeding.
Sanguedolce would be the expected Republican DA candidate nominee. It’s unclear if any Democrats will apply.
County Manager C. David Pedri, a Democrat, said he “strongly considered” and was “strongly encouraged” to run for DA but decided instead to accept a position as the Luzerne Foundation president and CEO. His resignation, submitted Friday, takes effect July 6.