MERCER, Pa. -- Mercer County Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Wherry won't be a candidate for judicial retention next year.
Wherry, who will turn 67 on April 2, said Tuesday he will request that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court change his judicial status from full-time to senior judge when his term expires at the end of 2003.
Senior judges can be assigned by the Supreme Court to hear cases anywhere in the state and can serve until age 75.
He had said when he was first elected in 1992 that he wouldn't seek retention after his initial 10-year term.
Pennsylvania law allows sitting judges to run unopposed for additional 10-year terms with voters voting yes or no on whether a judge should be retained for another term.
The Pennsylvania Constitution provides for the mandatory retirement of a full-time Pennsylvania judge in the year in which that judge reaches age 70.
"I do not believe it would be appropriate to seek another 10-year term of office when I could only serve three of those 10 years," Judge Wherry said.
What situation would be
If he won retention and had to retire, his vacancy would have to be filled until the next municipal election by an individual appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Legislature.
That appointment process is cumbersome and counterproductive and often fails to satisfy any of the interested parties, especially the voter, Judge Wherry said.
He added that he's enjoyed his term in office and looks forward to continued but less-intensive involvement in judicial matters by serving as a senior judge.
Judge Wherry said that, because he isn't really retiring, he doesn't want any ceremonial event or testimonial dinners scheduled in his behalf.
The judge said he's heard the names of about eight Mercer County attorneys who might be interested in running for his seat on the bench. The job pays $120,000 a year.
Mercer County has three common pleas judicial seats.