Veon nominated to fill Venango judge vacancy

Marie Veon, a longtime Venango County district attorney, has been nominated by Gov. Tom Wolf to fill the judicial vacancy in the county’s Court of Common Pleas that was created when Robert Boyer retired in April.

Veon, who served six four-year terms as DA from 1990 until her retirement in 2013, was nominated late last month. She will appear for a hearing Tuesday before the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee, state Sen. Scott Hutchinson told the newspaper late Friday afternoon.

During the hearing, the committee will have the opportunity to ask Veon questions before the panel votes whether to forward the nomination to the full state Senate for a vote.

Hutchinson said he doesn’t know for sure when the Senate will vote on Veon’s nomination, but he believed it will likely be Wednesday. A two-thirds majority would be required in the Senate for Veon’s appointment to be approved.

Hutchinson said he is “very supportive” of Veon’s nomination and added he is “very confident” the Senate will confirm the appointment.

“She is extremely qualified…I can’t see any roadblocks. I think it will be a slam dunk,” Hutchinson said.

If Veon is appointed, she will serve as a county judge through 2023. The position will be placed on the 2023 election ballot, and a candidate would be elected to finish out the term that runs until the end of 2027.

Boyer had been retained for a second 10-year term in the November 2017 election, but he announced his retirement just three years and a few months into that term.

Hutchinson noted that filling a vacant judge’s seat through a governor’s nomination is unusual. Wolf has an advisory group that would have helped him screen nominees, Hutchinson said.

President Judge Oliver Lobaugh recommended Veon for the position, Hutchinson said.

“Venango County is in an unusual situation. We have had an opening for many months and other complications with the president judge now,” Hutchinson said as he referenced medical issues that Lobaugh has been facing in recent weeks.

“Time is of the essence. I wish we could have filled the position months ago,” Hutchinson added.

Veon prosecuted many high-profile criminal cases during her long tenure as DA, including serving as lead prosecutor in the 2005 murder trial of brothers James and Timothy O’Brien, who were convicted for killing 11-year-old Shauna Howe of Oil City in 1992.

That case still garners much nationwide attention through television retrospectives that continue to air.

Lobaugh is currently on a medical leave, and Thomas Kistler, a former president judge in Centre County, is serving as Venango County’s acting president judge. He was appointed to that position late last month.