A new era begins in Clarion County Court of Common Pleas
By Randy Bartley
"This is truly an historic occasion," said Clarion County Senior Judge James Arner Jan. 3. "Sara Seidle-Patton is the first woman to serve as judge in Clarion County."
During her inauguration ceremony at the Clarion County Courthouse, Seidle-Patton said, "This is certainly a moment I hoped would come to fruition a year ago when we started this process of running for the position of judge.
"It was quite an experience, one that taught me many lessons about myself. I look forward to the position and the challenges that it has to offer."
Seidle-Patton said when she was considering her remarks for the inauguration one phrase came to mind "quality of life."
Seidle-Patton explained, "In thinking about what this position means to me and what I think it means to the people of Clarion County is that we have the responsibility and the ability to promote the quality of life of this place we call home."
She said she witnessed that at a session of treatment court and behavioral health court recently.
"It gives people the chance to be placed in a comprehensive program rather than be placed in jail," Seidle-Patton said. "It gives them a chance to better themselves with the help of a very dedicated team of individuals.
"I don't know if it was a good day when I observed that session of court but all of the individuals in behavioral health had positive things to say about the court system and the team that was working to help them.
"We also got to see graduation from treatment court that day."
Seidle-Patton said watching that and reflecting on that and the job she has ahead of her gave her a lot of positivity and lets her know the work the court system does really does impact the quality of life of the individuals who live here in the county.
"That is something that is my goal to continue," said Seidle-Patton. "I want to see more programs like our behavior health court and treatment court. A division of our court system that has been important to me is our children and youth services.
"We have had some challenges in recent years. It is my goal to see some of those positive reactions especially with the children and families involved with our court system in all facets."
Seidle-Patton continued, "So I am hoping to bring that positivity and improving that quality of life to individuals in different areas. I look forward to the challenges that are coming."
Sitting behind the bench for the first time, she said, "My biggest concern was that this chair was going to be too big for me," said the new judge. "I think it will be OK."
Arner said being a judge in Clarion County "differs from judicial positions in other more heavily-populated counties, which often have multiple judges who serve in specialized areas, while the president judge in Clarion County decides many different types of cases.
"As the judge, Sara will deal first-hand and directly with really difficult issues facing our society which present themselves in court contentious child custody cases, cases of child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, criminal conduct including serious drug and alcohol addiction, and concerns for the safety and security of participants in court," said Arner. "It is appropriate to commend Sara for her willingness to take on these difficult issues and to strive to improve the lives of people who come before the court."
Arner also offered some words of advice to the new judge.
"You will not often hear about how your decisions have affected people, but just know and trust that you have a positive impact on people's lives," he said. "Also, do resist attempts by others to restrict your ability, and the ability of other judges, to exercise discretion and good judgment.
"That's what the voters have elected you to do. And finally, remember you have the constant and unwavering support of your family and your friends and of the good people of Clarion County who have elected you. You can depend on them."
Father Monty Sayers of Immaculate Conception Church offered the invocation and Seidle-Patton's associates from her former law practice, Ashley Urik and Christy Logue, presented the commission.
Attending the inauguration were Jefferson County Court of Common Pleas President Judge John H. Foradora, all of Clarion County's magisterial district judges, the Clarion County commissioners, and court and municipal officials.