Judge Hess Retires

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The Honorable Kevin A. Hess

When asked to describe President Judge Kevin Hess his colleagues use phrases like “mentor,” “great legal mind” and “big shoes to fill.” When asked what his own legacy will be, he humbly hopes to be remembered as a “competent and fair judge.” At the end of December President Judge Kevin Hess, a 30 year veteran to the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County, will retire but his legacy and impact in Cumberland County will remain.

Hess credits his decision to embark on a career in law to his Uncle Arthur, a former Erie County District Attorney and Pennsylvania State Senator who Hess greatly respected. It was during his time as a student at Dickinson College though that Hess discovered his interest in becoming a judge. As an active member of Dickinson’s student government, Hess served as a student on the Judicial Board and quickly realized his passion for looking at the law from both sides. He earned his Juris Doctor from Dickinson School of Law in 1974. Hess was then partner in a law firm, focusing on civil litigation and family law. He was also a part-time Cumberland County Assistant District Attorney, before becoming First Assistant District Attorney in 1980. Hess also dedicated 25 years to the Pennsylvania National Guard, from which he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.

In 1985, Judge Hess was elected to and sworn-in as a common pleas judge for Cumberland County. Hess describes the 30 years to follow his initial election as “enormously fulfilling and challenging.” In 30 years, he has seen much change in the legal system and how the Courts function and when asked about the change, cited two very specific areas. He finds that the transformation in family law has been significant and has placed parents on equal footing. The largest change he references however is in technology. Though not something he ever would have thought to see when he took the bench in 1985, electronic filing of civil cases has become the norm in Cumberland County and has made the process much more efficient.

Change during Hess’s time has also come in the form of initiatives that he either spearheaded or supported. Most notable according to Hess, a mortgage foreclosure diversion program launched in response to the 2008 economic decline. With many families in Cumberland County facing the loss of their homes due to financial hardship, this program temporarily halted foreclosures from occurring until lenders met with homeowners before a judge to discuss options that would allow the homeowner to keep their home. This was a successful program and served the needs of the community well during challenging times and became a model program in the Commonwealth.  

As Hess is so often regarded as a mentor, his involvement and role as the first President of the Cumberland County Inn of Court during his first term as judge comes as no surprise.  With the goal of "fostering excellence and collegiality" this group meets monthly for an educational session followed by a group dinner.  The Inn is divided into teams with lawyers of varying years of experience and is still an important initiative within Cumberland County.  

When asked to recall the most memorable case in his career, Hess was quick to reference the trial for the 1994 murder of New Cumberland Borough Police Officer Will Cole. Cole was killed while attempting to apprehend two subjects during a coin shop robbery. Hess noted the processes of picking two different juries in two separate counties for the trial, which is not a common practice. One subject was sentenced to death and is awaiting execution; the other is serving a life sentence.

With a career dedicated to service and teaching, it’s hard to imagine what the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County will look like without Judge Hess’s leadership, but his plans for retirement will still allow him to continue his work looking at both sides of the law. Hess hopes to soon be appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as a Senior Judge. As a Senior Judge, he will be able to preside over cases at the request of the President Judge and can hear cases outside of Cumberland County at the request of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Hess credits the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners for their support of the court and their awareness of the value senior judges have in Cumberland County. The County can slow the need and cost incurred for the addition of full-time judges. The position of Senior Judge is not a full-time position and Hess looks forward to the time he will have in the New Year to travel with his wife and visit his six grandchildren located in various parts of the United States.

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New President Judge:  The Honorable Edward E. Guido

With the retirement of Judge Hess, Judge Edward Guido will serve as President Judge for the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County. Guido was elected Judge in 1997 and is a graduate of Dickinson School of Law. His career has taken him from private practice in Pittsburgh, to the Cumberland County Public Defender’s Office and then to Assistant District Attorney. Before becoming Judge he was a partner with the law firm of Saidis, Guido & Masland for 22 years.  Guido is also an adjunct professor at Dickinson College. Guido will step into the position having served and been mentored by the past three President Judges - Judge George Hoffer, Judge Edgar Bayley and soon to retire Judge Kevin Hess. Guido has been instrumental in a variety of initiatives in Cumberland County including the Cumberland County Bar Conference and establishing the Cumberland County Court Appointed Special Advocates Program.

Newest Member of the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas:  The Honorable Jessica Brewbaker

Current Magisterial District Judge Jessica Brewbaker was elected to the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County in November of 2015 and will take the bench on January 1, 2016. Brewbaker, the 2000 Class Valedictorian of the Dickinson School of Law, served as an attorney in the Cumberland County Public Defender's Office from 2000-2005, and was then elected Magisterial District Judge for the Carlisle Borough. She served for six years on the Board of Directors of Safe Harbor Homeless Shelter, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Cumberland County Bar Association.  

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