SUNBURY - A county assistant district attorney who has prosecuted defendants for 24 years will now be defending suspects in an unusual transfer of positions.

On Monday, Melissa Norton will make the switch from assistant district attorney (ADA) to county public defender. Her last day as a prosecutor will be Friday.

The 53-year-old Norton, who resides in Columbia County, will replace Public Defender Michael Romance, of Mount Carmel, who took an early retirement for health reasons. Northumberland County Conflicts Counsel Michael Seward will fill Norton's vacancy in the district attorney's office, which has been operating with only four ADAs since the county salary board eliminated one of the positions Jan. 25, 2012, as part of cost-cutting measures.

Attorney John Muncer, whom District Attorney Tony Rosini was forced to lay off, was later hired by the county commissioners as an assistant solicitor to succeed his longtime friend, the late James J. Rosini.

Norton reserved comment when asked why she was becoming a public defender after 24 years in the district attorney's office. Prior to becoming an ADA, Norton served as a county public defender for one year.

When asked about Norton changing positions, Rosini said, "She's been here a long time and did a good job. I hope she's happy with her new position."

Norton will retain her salary of $65,772 as a public defender.

The 40-year-old Seward, of Berwick, also will retain his salary of $64,482.

Seward has served as conflicts counsel since January 2007. He served as a county hearing officer from 2003 to 2007 and was a public defender in Lycoming County from 2002 to 2003. He also was conflicts counsel in Northumberland County from October 2000 to May 2002.