Feudale could help with Northumberland County's backlog
SHAMOKIN - Judge Barry F. Feudale, ousted from his role overseeing secret statewide grand jury investigations, may be spending more time in a familiar place: the Northumberland County Courthouse in Sunbury.
Feudale, who can continue to serve as a senior judge throughout Pennsylvania, may help the county unclog its backlog of children and youth cases, the Coal Township resident said Tuesday.
County President Judge Robert B. Sacavage confirmed that's the plan for Feudale, who was a Northumberland County judge from 1987 until 1997.
Feudale blames politics by Attorney General Kathleen Kane for his removal from grand jury probes. The situation has been the topic of statewide discussion since The Philadelphia Inquirer reported it Monday.
Feudale's known the status since May and seems to be taking the revelation in the media in stride. He knew the story was coming out Monday, but didn't read it until Tuesday.
Instead, "I was riding my bike for 35 miles yesterday in the heat," he said in an interview at The News-Item Tuesday. "And I walked 10 miles the day before that."
Feudale, an adventure-seeker who turns 67 in August, said he's training for a trip to England with friends, including some fellow judges.
The Supreme Court's decision has turned out to be a good thing, Feudale said.
"It's a gift that I was finally able to sleep seven or eight hours a night for the first time in years," he said.
He said he's "better" since the change, noting how the past few years have been demanding. He's been involved in Bonusgate, Computergate, Sandusky, Penn State and Turnpike Commission grand jury probes, plus others he can't mention because they have not yet been presented. A few years ago, Feudale noted, he had to "stand down" from some of his Commonwealth Court duties because of the extensive workload.
Still a senior judge
Feudale said the order that removed him from the grand jury role made clear he could continue his duties as a senior judge, a floating role through which he's served in 63 of the state's 67 counties.
He told Sacavage a few months ago that he would probably have more time, and that perhaps he could help in the cases involving children, an area of law he has dealt with extensively in his career.
Sacavage said the process involves sending the required written request to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) in Harrisburg. That hasn't happened yet, "but it's our intention," Sacavage said Tuesday.
Jim Koval, AOPC spokesman, confirmed Feudale remains one of the state's senior judges, a statewide pool of judges approved by the state Supreme Court. They are called on an as-needed basis, and are often assigned close to their hometowns as a matter of economics, he said.
Helping the county
Children and youth cases are of particular concern in Northumberland County because Judge Charles Saylor was reassigned from all such cases in January 2012 after a family disputed one of his rulings. Saylor announced earlier this year he was dropping his legal challenge to the family and several county officials involved because of time constraints.
Judge William H. Wiest has taken on those cases, but he has to recuse himself whenever one of his children, two of whom are attorneys, are involved in cases, Sacavage said. The president judge tries to pick up the slack, but the cases keep coming, he said.
'No question' on abilities
As to the Inquirer story, Sacavage said, "I was surprised to see that."
He said he's not aware of the details of the grand jury roles Feudale had, but he has no hesitations in what he could do for Northumberland County.
"He has very good experience in that particular field," he said. "I have no question about his judging abilities."