By Amaris Elliott-Engel
Of the Legal Staff
As James M. McMaster of Bensalem winds down his practice in the next month before taking the oath of office to become a Bucks County Common Pleas judge sometime next month, he said that the court needs more judicial resources invested on the domestic relations side.
"The court, in my mind, needs more staff on that side because it's hard when you get listed for a hearing and you're one of 40 or 50 cases on that list. It's [difficult] for the judge to handle all those cases," McMaster said. "It's difficult for clients and you're waiting for hours and hours for your turn."
Bucks County is behind its neighboring counties in terms of the judgeships per capita, McMaster said.
McMaster was one of two common pleas judge and four magisterial district judge nominees who had their nominations confirmed by the state Senate last week, despite a moratorium on filling judicial vacancies and Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille's objection that filling the vacancies in the face of the court's budget woes showed disrespect for the judicial branch.
McMaster said that his qualifications as a judicial nominee was a "sideline" issue to the chief justice's concerns about funding the court.
While Castille floated the idea in an interview with The Legal that the confirmed judicial appointees may not be paid by the court and may have to file a mandamus action to get paid, McMaster said, "I don't know the legalities. ... I expect the courts to live up to their obligations," whether that means the court needs to get supplemental funding from the General Assembly or pursue another solution for the shortfall identified by the court between its general-fund appropriation and its self-identified fiscal needs.
McMaster said he has had a general practice for 33 years. He practices along with Craig A. Smith in Smith & McMaster in Newtown.
McMaster focuses on domestic relations, real estate and business cases, as well as representing some municipalities. McMaster also represented the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission for eight years. He received his J.D. from Rutgers University School of Law-Camden.
McMaster has been confirmed to sit as a judge until January 2012, so he will have to run for a full 10-year term next year.
State Sen. Robert M. "Tommy" Tomlinson, R-Bucks, said that he supported Gov. Edward G. Rendell’s nomination of McMaster because the lawyer, who comes from Lower Bucks County, practices a great deal in domestic law and real estate cases, areas that would supplement the bench's current strength in criminal cases. Tomlinson also said that the domestic cases have increased substantially, so McMaster's skills can be used on the Bucks County Common Pleas bench.