In early February, 2011, I went up to the Armstrong County Courthouse for an ARD hearing for my client. ARD is for first time offenders with no prior record, where they are accepted into the program and, if they successfully complete the program, it results in a dismissal of the charges.

Judge Pancik was the presiding judge at the ARD hearings, and there were probably 25 individuals eligible for the program that day. When the Judge came out on the bench, he began explaining to the 25 people their eligibility for the program. One of the potential ARD defendants was a young mother of two. She couldn’t have been more than 21 years old. She went in to the Court that day with her two small children. I overheard her talking to the Public Defender that she wasn’t able to get a babysitter.

Well, the hearing begins, there is a roomful of people and, of course, what happens is that both kids start screaming when the Judge is talking in open Court. Now you have to understand that a Judge in his Courtroom has absolute power. He can banish or punish or humiliate anyone he chooses to in his Courtroom. There are judges who abuse their position of authority like this and it’s not pretty to see.

In this case, Judge Pancik recognized what the situation was, namely that it was a young mother with a slew of problems and not enough money to even afford a babysitter, who was forced to bring her children into the Courtroom. She had no control over her children screaming. Instead of making a big scene and asserting his power, by humiliating the girl in front of everyone, which he definitely had a right to do, Judge Pancik took the high ground. He patiently went thru the Colloquy for all the people. Then he made sure that the young lady’s case was the first one heard, so that she could be accepted into the program and leave the Courtroom with her two children. I was most impressed with the way he handled the situation.

Every day an attorney is in the Courtroom, he gets to see how Judges react to situations. Sometimes they act nobly, like Judge Pancik, and other times they don’t. It was very heartening to see Judge Pancik taking such a humane approach to the situation.

Yes, in case you were wondering, my client was accepted into the ARD Program!!