5 magistrate judges added to constables’ lawsuit

A civil lawsuit alleging Lycoming County Sheriff Mark Lusk unlawfully ordered two constables be blocked from work has been extended to include five of the six magisterial district judges in the county.

District judges Gary A. Whiteman, Christian D. Frey, Allen P. Page III, William C. Solomon and Jon E. Kemp were added to the suit that argues Lusk doesn’t have the jurisdiction to deny constables Chad Riley and Mark Phillips work in the county.

Riley and Phillips said they were wrongfully denied work without a reason. Because there was no reason given, it led them to think it had been politically motivated because of Riley’s unsuccessful run against Lusk in the primary with Phillips’ outward support. The recently amended complaint includes this allegation more specifically.

“In the 2017 election year, plaintiff Chad Riley ran for Lycoming County sheriff against Mark Lusk,” according to the suit. “Soon after his announcement, plaintiff Riley was told by the sheriff that he would no longer be getting work from the sheriff’s office.”

The suit then alleges Lusk told all six magistrates not to use either Riley or Phillips for work in the future.

“As a result of Mark Lusk’s actions, the magistrates give no work at all to the defendants,” the suit alleges.

It also outlines distinctions between the job of a constable and a sheriff.

“A constable is an elected official authorized to appoint deputy constables,” according to the suit. “A constable is an independent contractor and is not an employee of the commonwealth, the judiciary, the township or the county in which he/she works.”

Phillips was elected by the people of Old Lycoming Township. Riley was appointed by President Judge Nancy L. Butts. And according to Pennsylvania law, constables are part of the executive branch of government while the sheriff’s office is not.

Because constables belong to the executive branch of government, they are answerable to the governor of Pennsylvania, according to constablepa.us. And although they commonly perform services to the courts, they don’t belong to the judicial branch.

Constables may be given work maintaining order at election polls, providing courtroom security or prisoner transport, civil work or work serving writs, arrest warrants, levies and collecting fines.

Riley and Phillips’ main argument is that the magistrates don’t have to listen to Lusk’s alleged order, because Lusk doesn’t have any jurisdiction over them as constables.