Wednesday, January 25, 2017

DelRicci Earns Kudos, Thanks for Shout-out to Employees

Montgomery County Judge Thomas M. DelRicci’s address earlier this month during his installation as president judge garnered rave reviews from a lot of county workers who expressed their appreciation after the judge gave a special shout-out to them.
Montgomery County Judge Thomas M. DelRicci/Photo courtesy DelRicci family

First, DelRicci, a 62-year-old jurist from the Ambler section of Whitpain Township who has been on the bench since 1998, acknowledged his “exceptional staff” – his assistant, Natalia Hordijenko, his law clerk, Julie Decker, his court clerk, David Strehle and his criers, Kathy McNally and William McGee. 

“They keep me organized and grounded. There is a little friendly competition among judges who all like to boast about their staff. Recently, at a portrait unveiling, two of our judges both asserted they had the very best staff. As an exercise of the prerogative of the president judge, I want to take this opportunity to officially announce that they were both wrong,” DelRicci said, eliciting laughter from the standing-room-only crowd. “I have the best staff.”

However, the judge continued, it’s not only the judicial staff that makes the county courthouse so special.

“It’s everyone who works here. The men and women of the mailroom, the maintenance staff, the court administrator’s office, the security staff, the sheriff’s deputies, the clerks and personnel of the filing offices, the stenographers,” DelRicci said.

Judge DelRicci with wife, Carol and mom, Jennie/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
“Ladies and gentleman, I see how hard these individuals work every day, sometimes under difficult circumstances, to make certain that this courthouse functions well. I want all of those individuals to know today that your work is appreciated, your smiles are appreciated and that I will be your advocate. You have earned that,” DelRicci said.

The audience erupted with thunderous applause.

After the ceremony, many courthouse employees approached me to say they were pleased and thankful that the judge recognized them in his remarks. Some expressed surprise, not used to being recognized in such a public fashion. I could tell it really meant a lot to them.

“We don’t function without them. If my mail doesn’t get delivered, I can’t do my job. If the court reporters aren’t there doing their jobs, I can’t do my job. When I go to do my job every day, there are people who support me,” the judge told me several days later when I asked him during an interview about his decision to recognize employees during the swearing-in ceremony.

“It’s about saying, ‘Look, if you’re doing your job every day and doing it well you should be recognized for it,” DelRicci said.
Judge Thomas M. DelRicci/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

Too often, I believe, the support staff does go unrecognized. I think those who work day in and day out to keep the courthouse running smoothly deserve the special recognition.

Kudos to Judge DelRicci for recognizing the employees. It definitely was a morale booster, a very positive message and great way to start off a new year.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Tap of the Gavel in Honor of Judge William J. Furber Jr. at his Retirement

The end of a year often brings with it some retirements in government and legal circles and none was more noticeable last week than that of Montgomery County President Judge William J. Furber Jr.

Photo of Portrait of Judge William J. Furber Jr.
Furber, 68, of Narberth, retired after more than 23 years on the county bench. Throughout his tenure, Furber was known for his leadership qualities and his reputation as a jurist was impeccable. Furber’s knowledge of the law, temperament and wisdom garnered much respect from colleagues and the lawyers who practiced in his courtroom. He was known as a true gentleman, a man who wore his signature bow tie to work on many days.

Having sat in his courtroom covering trials on many occasions, I was always struck by Furber’s fairness, courteousness, respectful tone and patience. I recall covering Furber’s Jan. 6, 2012, installation as president judge and I can say the judge certainly fulfilled the promises he made at that time.

“When it comes to courthouse culture, I am old school – courteousness, patience and respect and the willingness to listen are important traits for judges and lawyers alike. I believe in decorum. These courtrooms are sacred to me,” Furber told the crowd during a heartfelt speech in 2012. 

“You can have the greatest and most well-funded programs in the world, but if you don’t know how to bring out the best in people, with basic courtesy and respect, then the effort will fail,” Furber added.

I think those are powerful words to live by, for every judge.

A kind man, Furber always acknowledged the support he received from his wife, Welcome, his three sons and his courthouse family, administrative assistant Lois Joiner, court clerk Liz Oreo, court reporter Lisa Neal and court criers Bob Miller and Joe Wallen.

On Dec. 30, county Commissioner Joe Gale presented Judge Furber with a citation on behalf of the board of commissioners in recognition of his retirement and many years of service. The event was held prior to Veteran’s Treatment Court, which Furber presided over since its inception in 2011.

Screen shot of Commissioner Joe Gale's tribute to Furber via Twitter
“We, the Commissioners of Montgomery County, do hereby commend and congratulate the Honorable William J. Furber Jr. on the occasion of his retirement after many years of dedicated public service and express our gratitude for his exemplary service and contributions to the citizens of Montgomery County,” the citation read.  
Photo of Portrait of Judge William J. Furber Jr.

Furber, a graduate of the University of Maryland and Temple University School of Law who was elected to the bench in 1993 and who was retained in 2003 and 2013 for additional 10-year terms, beamed with pride during the event.  

Furber, who served in the Marine Corps, presided over the specialty court that was formed to enhance public safety and reduce recidivism rates among veterans who are charged with crimes. Under the program, veterans are connected with community treatment services through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs while receiving appropriate dispositions to their criminal charges.

During his time on the bench, Furber also presided over civil, family and criminal court. Prior to being elected a judge in 1993, Furber worked as a county prosecutor from 1974 to 1976 and then was a litigation specialist and partner with the Norristown firm Wilson, Drayer, Morrow and Furber from 1976 to 1991. In 1991, Furber became a sole practitioner with an office in Norristown.

So, as you leave the bench Judge Furber, I want to thank you for your many years of service and congratulate you on a retirement that is well earned. Enjoy! You will be missed around the county halls of justice.