For the first time since he took the bench more than a dozen years ago, Adams Circuit Court Judge Frederick Schurger has a challenger in the upcoming election.
Republican Chad Kukelhan, the chief deputy public defender and a private attorney, is looking to unseat Schurger, a Democrat who was appointed to fill the seat in August 1999.
The six-year term pays $110,500 a year. The salary is set by state law.
The way Adams County divides up cases, Schurger handles the higher-level felonies, estate cases, guardianships and mental health hearings.
Schurger also hears the lion’s share of divorces.
No one likes to sit through and listen to those, he said.
He said he would like to continue to improve the programs he brought to the county such as a community corrections program and a program for children suspended or expelled from school.
By getting this program going, it’s been very successful at providing an alternative so they’re not out roaming the streets, Schurger said. It’s something I feel very proud about.
Schurger also is pleased about the physical improvements to the Circuit Courtroom in his years on the bench, necessary because of the courthouse’s relatively small size.
Schurger said he reclaimed some space in the well of the courtroom – where the attorneys present their cases – by removing a row of seats from the gallery. It also makes it easier for the jury to see during jury trials, he said.
He also added attorney conference rooms and removed the law library to create a small hearing room. Since the county could not afford to continue its subscriptions for hard-copy legal publications and had made the transition to a digital library, Schurger wanted to put the space to good use.
I’d like to keep those things rolling, he said.
In a written statement from Kukelhan, the challenger said his top priorities, if elected, are to maintain court staff and make sure that perception and reality reflect that he is the leader of the court.
Over the last four years, I have had the opportunity to work with the Adams Circuit Court staff, attorneys, probation department, jail personnel, and citizens before the court, Kukelhan wrote. My personality and diligence will work to assure that all of these people are working together to make for the best environment for justice to be served.
Kukelhan said the biggest challenge facing the Circuit Court, as well as Adams County, is maintaining a budget that can be justified.
Across our nation, resources are scarce and yet services are still needed. Our county is very similar to the nation at large; we have fewer resources and yet we still need the services of the court. It will be my job and challenge to manage the Circuit Court’s budget under these circumstances, and more importantly, to utilize Adams County’s resources wisely and conservatively, Kukelhan wrote.