New federal judge takes oath of office

A Canton attorney Monday made it to the dream job that he aspired to achieve ever since becoming a lawyer and joining a private practice in Bradford County more than 22 years ago.

“I’m just a country lawyer from Canton,” said Matthew W. Brann, 47, Monday following an investiture ceremony, where he officially took the oath of office to become the next judge in the U.S. Middle District Court at the federal building on West Third Street.

Brann acknowledged that he was sworn into office in a private ceremony without the spectacle of the investiture on Jan. 17 in Harrisburg. However, he was honored by Monday’s heaps of praise he received from colleagues and U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, and Bob Casey, D-Scranton.

The ceremony, he said, served as a day that neither he nor his wife and children will easily forget.

“I had wanted to be a judge for 22 years,” Brann said.

Nominated to the court by President Barack Obama on May 17 and appointed to the bench Dec. 27 following confirmation by the Senate, Brann said he appreciated the work done by the senior and visiting judges, most of them traveling from Harrisburg and Scranton.

Visiting judges were needed to fill in after the last two judges here died. U.S. Senior Judge Malcolm Muir died at age 96 in the summer of 2011. U.S. Senior Judge James F. McClure Jr. died at age 79 in December 2010.

“Finding and getting a judge here was critical,” Brann said. Not only from a caseload perspective, he said, but to prevent the powers that be from possibly deciding to close the courthouse for a lack of need. Since the death of Muir, a judge had not been appointed and a judicial emergency existed in the district and throughout the nation, Brann said.

“It’s a big day for Williamsport,” Toomey said. “This is a town that deserves to have a federal judge to dispense timely justice in a state and a region growing in importance economically.”

He described Williamsport as a hub for the energy revolution and in need of a judge such as Brann, who he believed would be fair and had the necessary legal experience.

Brann, too, said he anticipated reviewing multiple energy-related cases because natural gas exploration is transforming the region.

“I have 10 right now,” he said of such cases related to gas exploration.

Casey also heaped similar accolades on Brann, saying the attorney went through an exhaustive process to be confirmed.

Casey said he appreciated the working relationship with Toomey to “reach this day.”

“I wish we could replicate that across the country,” Casey said of the bipartisan efforts to find a judge for Williamsport and central parts of the state.

Brann’s friend, Evan S. Williams III, who works at the Bradford County firm, praised his former colleague, calling him not only a respected and seasoned lawyer but a family man devoted to his faith in God and community service.

For his part, Brann said waiting for confirmation meant a measure of uncertainty for his legal clients at the private practice. Brann confessed he had to tell some he wasn’t sure whether he could complete their cases and might have to hand off legal work to colleagues at the firm.

Brann said the painted portraits of the late senior judges, the last to sit on the bench, give him pause to consider the awesome responsibility ahead.

“I have big shoes to fill,” Brann said.

“My only regret is I won’t see or talk to these wonderful senior judges,” Brann said. “I will do my best to emulate their positive traits.”