By ANNE REINER, Williamsport Sun-Gazette
(Reprinted with permission of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette)
At the Lycoming County courthouse, the court administration office is the glue holding everything together.
For the past 24 years, attorney Kevin Way has led the office and soon he will step down.
"I've enjoyed my years," Way said. "We have always had a
bench and judges who are willing to follow their initiatives to try new
things that they think and that the staff thinks will improve the process."
Kevin Way and his replacement, Adrianne Stahl, in the Lycoming County Courthouse.
When Way took the position in November 1991, the fax machine was in high demand and email had barely scratched the surface of society.
Over the past two decades, the largest change has come with technology, according to Way. In that time, the court went from counting cases with 3-by-5-inch cards in a file basket to online servers with each case cataloged separately.
President Judge Nancy Butts has worked closely with Way since her appointment in 2010, but they have had a professional relationship at the courthouse for over 20 years.
"It's a scary time in a way because all this institutional knowledge is leaving us," Butts said.
Through Way's leadership, the civil case management system was created in the early 1990s, enabling the court to closeout cases within two years. Treatment court was created in 1998 to enable defendants to break the cycle of abuse, and the jury system progressed from sequestering jurors for one to two weeks to allowing them to go home at the end of each day.
Probably one of most important changes the court administration was able to make was the institution of probation officers within public schools, according to Way. This provided an immediate help to student problems, cutting the delinquent filing rate from 890 in 1998 to below 400 every year since.
Adrianne Stahl, a lawyer at Steinbacher, Stahl, Goodall & Yurchak, will be taking Way's place as the new court administrator.
"Have a good sense of humor," Way jokingly advised.
But on a more serious note, he offered her some words of wisdom for the future.
"The system we have established, with the work of a lot of people, allows our community good access to a fair process to resolve their disputes," Way said. "If you can continue that access and continue that level playing field, although it doesn't sound like much, you've really made an advancement."
Stahl studied criminal justice at Lycoming College and went on to get her law degree at Widener University School of Law in Harrisburg, graduating magna cum laude. She has worked in private practice since 2002.
"She's going to bring a different skill set," Butts said, "which is going to bring a different perspective to the way we run things. Which is what I like."
"My biggest goal will be to at least fill Kevin's shoes at some point, which I know will take some time," Stahl said. "I'm really excited about this opportunity for myself, and then I hope to impact the system as a whole, with some time and direction from the judges."
Stahl is ready to make this a "20- to 25-year plan" as she is invested in the community and settling down with her husband and three girls.
Stahl will begin her new job on Dec. 7, giving her a week of overlap with Way, whose final day is Dec. 11.