Kelly Gaughan believes jail is not always the best remedy for systemic problems

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To the Editor:

On May 21, Pike County voters have the opportunity to cast a vote to fill the seat on the Pike County Court of Common Pleas left vacant with the retirement of Judge Kameen in 2018. It’s an easy choice because there is but one candidate listed on both the Republican and Democratic tickets: Kelly Gaughan, a widely respected, highly qualified attorney with a broad range of experience, particularly in the area of family law.

So, should you just skip going to the polls on voting day because she has a lock on the office? Absolutely not. You need to vote, not to pump up Kelly’s vote tally, but for your own peace of mind in knowing that you pro-actively helped select someone who you can trust will do the best by you, should your life be touched by the county court system.

Consider the very direct impact a judge has on the lives of citizens. Judges not only pound gavels and run court rooms, they impact the lives of thousands of persons each year, whether they be offenders, victims, plaintiffs or defendants as wells as the families and friends of such citizens.

Judges write orders to protect spouses and children from abusive home situations. They determine what testimony to allow and how to apply an arcane law in a complex case. They decide during divorce how a couple’s assets are split and how often parents get to see their children. During a criminal case, the judge makes sure both victim’s and defendant’s rights are protected, and if you are guilty, it is the judge who carries the very heavy weight of determining a defendant’s sentence. In civil cases, the judge rules on the merits of admissible testimony and evidence and instructs the jury on the law. In probate cases, a judge may decide how much you inherit or who gets your “stuff” when you die. If you want to adopt a child, a judge will be involved in the process. When your employer discriminates against you, a judge will inevitably be involved. If you want to do something as simple as return to your maiden name, you will need the approval of a judge.

So, who serves on the Pike County Court of Common Pleas might not be top of your mind today, but it could be tomorrow because more than 3,300 citizens are directly involved in a court action in Pike County each year, along with thousands of family members effected by any court action involving just one citizen. Trusting in the qualifications, experience, expertise, fair-mindedness and even the creativity of the individual hearing what might one day be your case is important.

Judicial ethics rules prevent candidates for judge from voicing their opinions on political questions or stating how they might rule on particular issues. So, judicial campaigns focus on a candidate’s experience and qualifications, all of which Kelly Gaughan has in spades. You can check out her background and qualifications at

It’s not just Kelly’s education, experience, fair mindedness, community involvement and generous heart which appeal to me as a voter. It’s also her commonsense approach to problem-solving that convinced me that she is right for the job. And, the Pike County court system has a huge problem in need of solving: case backlog.

To help tackle the choking backlog, Kelly is committed to bringing more discipline to the processing of cases through the courts by instituting a formal calendarization of civil cases, an arena in which a complaint may be filed, but then languish, often for years, simply because the litigant isn’t forced to move ahead with his action. Demanding date-certain commitments from lawyers and their clients will help separate the serious cases from the frivolous. Kelly believes that establishing a date-driven court process for civil matters will place the accountability to move a case ahead not only on the shoulders of lawyers but on their clients as well.

As the Pike County case backlog places increasing burdens on the dedicated staff serving our county justice system from the prothonotary to the clerk of courts to the probation department, Kelly is committed to maximizing the resources available to our county court system. She will focus energy on seeking state grants for staff, training, and innovative programs from entities such as the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency and the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission among others.

To help stem the increasing rate of recidivism, or repeat offenses, Kelly is advocating for the introduction of two innovative, problem-solving “treatment” courts — a drug court and a veterans court to deal with cases involving behaviors and conditions often linked to crime. These are situations in which the crime is often a symptom or outcome of an underlying mental health or behavioral condition that under conventional judicial procedures generally goes unresolved, leading to repeat offenses.

Kelly is passionate in her belief, born out by the success of such courts in other PA counties, that diverting certain nonviolent defendants into a problem-solving court rather than a punitive jail sentence will stem the number of repeat offenders, trim court and jail expenses, and most of all, stop the downward spiral of a life, improve outcomes and strengthen families.

Let Kelly know through your vote that you share her belief that everyone deserves a court system designed to offer timely response, accountability by all parties and a system designed to treat systemic problems that are not always best remedied by jail sentences and punishment, but a system that seeks new ways to solve problems confronting today’s justice system.

Carrie Thomas


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