Chesco judge to preside at trial of ex-Montco GOP chief

Posted: March 01, 2014

Chester County Court Senior Judge Thomas G. Gavin will preside over the trial of former Montgomery County Republican Committee Chairman Robert J. Kerns.

No trial date has been set.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille signed off last Friday on Gavin's assignment and gave him "the same power and authority as the judges of the requesting district," the order said.

It came after Montgomery County Court President Judge William J. Furber Jr. advised the Supreme Court of a "full-bench recusal," according to a state document.

"The defendant, Mr. Kerns, is the former chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party. . . . In light of the countywide political nature of Mr. Kerns' prior position, an out-of-county Common Pleas judge is requested," Furber wrote, according to the document.

Kerns resigned the chairmanship in November as word of the criminal investigation became public.

His case initially was assigned to Judge Robert Sobeck in District Curt, where criminal charges first are heard. Sobeck, a Republican, recused himself, and a different Chester County judge presided over the last District Court proceeding before sending the case on to County Court.

Gavin served on the Chester County bench for 25 years before retiring as a full-time judge in 2011. As a senior judge, he does not carry a full caseload and presides over cases as needed.

This will not be Gavin's only high-profile case.

He also is hearing the whistle-blower and defamation civil suit that Michael J. McQueary, a former Pennsylvania State University graduate assistant football coach, filed against his ex-employer in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal.

Gavin will be on the bench in Montgomery County in March for a hearing in Kerns' case.

Kerns, 66, was arrested in late November after being accused of drugging and raping a 52-year-old female employee of his former law firm. He has pleaded not guilty to 19 counts, including rape, sexual assault, and lying to authorities.

The North Wales resident posted part of his $1 million bail and was released after spending a night in jail.



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