Officials plan to eventually pay the asbestos master's salary with court fees.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- A special court master has been appointed to help Lawrence County officials wade through the hundreds of asbestos-related cases filed in the county over the last few years.
President Judge Ralph D. Pratt appointed New Castle attorney Brenda Marino to the job, which she started Tuesday.
Job description: Philip Boudewyns, court administrator, said Marino was hired to help manage the flow of cases and will not be presiding over any court matters involving asbestos-related lawsuits.
Marino's duties involve going through each case file and categorizing them for trial or determining if they are near an out-of-court settlement, Boudewyns said.
"She will be assisting the judges. It's more of a managerial role because they [asbestos-related cases] are so voluminous," Boudewyns said.
According to court records, there are about 1,200 asbestos-related cases still pending in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court, and Boudewyns said they are expecting an additional 1,800 cases to be filed soon.
"These asbestos cases constitute a full-time position. No one on the current court staff or the judges' current caseload would allow for that kind of time," Boudewyns added.
Salary: Marino will be paid $40 an hour for her work, he said. The court budget will pay for her salary through Dec. 31. Boudewyns noted that court officials are hoping to have an agreement in place by next year to have litigants pay Marino's salary through court fees.
Marino was chosen for the job because of her background as an attorney and her experience as an administrative manager for Atty. Dallas Hartman. She coordinated the flow of legal cases for several attorneys in his office, the court administrator said.