BY REGGIE SHEFFIELD
A former first assistant district attorney here in Susquehanna County has lost his attempt to unseat the current district attorney and be placed in her job because he fails to satisfy a job requirement that he live in this county for at least a year.
William C. Urbanski, who served as an assistant prosecutor under former Susquehanna District Attorney Robert Klein until Klein’s death from cancer late last year, sued current District Attorney Marion O’Malley earlier this year claiming that she had been unlawfully sworn into office.
President Judge Jason J. Legg swore O’Malley into office in February, hours after the state Supreme Court refused to block her appointment by denying a special petition filed by Urbanski.
In a five-page opinion released Monday, Senior Center County Common Pleas Judge David E. Grine, sitting in Susquehanna County by special designation, ruled that Urbanski could and cannot serve as district attorney simply because he has not lived in the county long enough.
“Therefore, Petitioner must have resided in the county for one year next preceding when he is appointed by operation of law or officially fixed in the position. The Petitioner is unable or unqualified to become District Attorney since he did not reside in the county for one year next preceding when he is appointed by operation of law or officially fixed in the position,” Grine wrote.
Grine presided in the case as an uninvolved party.
O’Malley fired Urbanski hours after Legg swore her in and less than a week after the state Supreme Court turned down an emergency petition Urbanski filed in January asking them to block her appointment.
O’Malley, whose appointment expires in 2020, was Legg’s first assistant before he was elected judge in 2015.
Urbanski, the former head of the Luzerne County Republican Party, had claimed that as the first assistant at the time of Klein’s death in December he legally inherited the position of District Attorney.
After county and state court officials repeatedly advised him that he failed to satisfy the job residency requirement Urbanski had his childhood friend, Luzerne County Magisterial District Judge James J. Haggerty, swear him in at the Urbanski family home in Mountain Top, Luzerne County.
In a one-page decision issued in February, the state Supreme Court said it would not stop Urbanski from filing suit in county court and, if he did, directed the county court to resolve the issue “on an expedited basis.”
Friction between Urbanski and Legg reached a head in early January after Legg had repeatedly advised Urbanski that although he had recently established county residency in anticipation of Klein’s death, that still did not satisfy the law’s requirement that he live in the county for at least a year.
Both the state Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts and the Susquehanna County Bar Association had previously stated they agreed with Legg’s interpretation of the law.