BY JOSH MROZINSKI
“In the 19 years, I’ve never had two days the same,” Judge Vanston said.
Still, Judge Vanston is ready to step aside and he said that he plans to retire when his 10-year term ends in January 2010 so he can spend more time with his family and be a senior judge.
“I’m in my 19th year doing this job and I can see it is time somebody else does it,” Judge Vanston said. “My wife and I are looking forward to retiring.”
Judge Vanston will be retiring after 21 years of overseeing state court District 44, leaving behind a legacy of fairness and intelligence, area attorneys say.
“Judge Vanston treats everybody fairly,” Tunkhannock attorney Gerald Grimaud said, adding that the judge is balanced in giving sentences.
Grimaud also called Judge Vanston progressive for supporting a drug court that recently began in the county.
Judge Vanston began to practice general law in 1974, after earning his law degree from Boston College Law School.
The judge also had served in the Army from 1970 to 1972.
In 1981, Vanston was elected Wyoming County District Attorney and in 1985 he was reelected.
When President Judge Roy Gardner announced in October 1988 that he would step down at the end of the year, the district attorney chose to run for the judgeship.
In 1989, Vanston was nominated to the judgeship and subsequently was elected.
Ten years later, Judge Vanston was retained.
“When I started out I had two employees in Sullivan County and I now have six and probably at least doubled the number of employees in Wyoming County,” Judge Vanston said.
In Wyoming County, Judge Vanston now oversees 36 employees.
During his career, Vanston has investigated or presided over several high-profile cases.
In 1986, Vanston investigated the disappearance and death of 25-year-old Joyce Ann Harding as the county district attorney.
During his tenure as judge, Vanston has also presided over homicide court cases, including in 2002 when he sentenced Robert Harrison to 120-240 months in state prison for second-degree murder and robbery.
Recently, Judge Vanston presided over the trial of John Simon, who was found guilty of robbery by a jury for his involvement in the death of a Brooklyn, N.Y. man in December 2003.
Noting that the variety of cases has prevented him from becoming an expert in a particular area of law, he also said that he has enjoyed being a judge.
Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick, Jr. said that Judge Vanston is very intelligent and Tunkhannock attorney Judd Fitze said Judge Vanston has been a great judge.
Fitze, 55, said the he is “seriously considering” running for the judgeship.
“I’ve been approached by all sorts of people who have encouraged me to do it,” Fitze added.
Election for the president judge will be held in 2009, with a primary in May and general election in November, according to Pennsylvania Department of State spokeswoman Leslie Amoros.
As a new president judge settles in, Judge Vanston hopes to be nearby in his senior judge office in the courthouse.
He said that he would also be there to help the new judge because, “There’s a lot to learn.”
He noted that being president judge is, “never boring.”