Doyle seeking retention

By Phil Ray

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Blair County Common Pleas Court Judge Elizabeth Doyle said Wednesday she will ask Blair County voters next fall to retain her for a second 10-year term.

Doyle, who is beginning her 10th year as a county judge, said she has informed the Pennsylvania Department of State that she will be seeking retention.

Nobody from the department was available Wednesday to discuss the retention system.

Doyle said her decision means her name will be placed on the November ballot, and voters will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” to a question asking if she should be retained in office.

She said Wednesday that she had been working hard for the past 10 years on behalf of the people of Blair County, and she said she will continue to do so if she is returned to office.

With Doyle planning to seek retention, that means that Blair County voters will be making decisions on two judicial seats in 2013 – whether to retain Doyle and who to elect as a replacement for retiring Blair County Judge Hiram A. Carpenter.

Carpenter’s last day in office will be Tuesday, at which point he is expected to become a senior judge.

Several candidates are expected to run for Carpenter’s vacant seat, and those announcements are expected in the next couple of weeks.

The candidates seeking that judicial seat will have to go through the normal election process, which includes a primary election and the general election.

Doyle noted that as a sitting judge seeking retention, she will not be running against the candidates seeking Carpenter’s vacant seat.

Doyle said that she has many goals she wants to accomplish if retained by the voters, including the development of a Child Advocacy Center for Blair County. The center would provide experts to investigate and treat child abuse victims.

She also supports the formation of a support group for children affected by custody disputes or divorces.

Doyle will continue to explore the development of a Mental Health Court, or more intensive mental health services for individuals who end up in the criminal justice system.

She said she also intends to attend statewide and local training sessions on juvenile justice, security and mental health first aid.

During the last five years, Doyle helped to initiate a juvenile drug court and she wants to continue to oversee the cases of young people addicted to drugs.

The judge said she wants to upgrade the court system to permit electronic filing, electronic monitoring of cases and video conferencing.

The county is planning to open a satellite adult parole and probation office in Altoona, and Doyle said she would monitor that program.

Blair County voters twice have failed to retain judges over the years – Judge R. Bruce Brumbaugh in 1989 and Judge Norman D. Callan in 2001.

Doyle said she doesn’t plan to launch a formal campaign for retention.

In reviewing her years in office, Doyle said in 2005 the state Senate named her to the Interbranch Commission on Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness. She has served on the Executive Committee and Nominating Committee for the Pennsylvania Trial Judges Association.

She presided over the Andre Staton homicide case, in which she imposed the death penalty on Staton, convicted of stabbing his ex-girlfriend to death.

She sentenced convicted child rapist David Helsel to essentially a life term behind bars and sentenced Shawn Dugan, who shot a friend to death, to life behind bars for first-degree murder.

Doyle handled the Jesse James Hooper child beating case, as well as the Curtis Walk child sexual abuse case.

She said she presided over 10 major drug trials and said she has been the judge in six major medical malpractice cases.

In mentioning the Juvenile Drug Court, the judge said, “We do not tear down our youth, we use empathy to see through the client’s eyes and to consider their feelings, so they will mirror empathy.”

“We know it is a struggle not to use if you have the habit of using. Habits can be changed,” she stated.