Delaware County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge David Hejmanowski, who was re-elected to the position back on Election Day last month, said he’s looking forward to another term on the bench.
“I’m excited and honored to do it for another six years,” Hejmanowski said. “I absolutely love the people I work with and the work we’re doing, so having the chance to do it for another six years is wonderful.”
Hejmanowski was initially elected to the court in 2014. He said that during his first term, the court shifted to focusing on preventative intervention in cases.
“We have continued to try and intervene in cases in a way where we are catching problems earlier and try and prevent them from becoming larger problems,” he said, comparing it to doctors who work to reduce a person’s blood pressure or cholesterol to prevent a heart attack. “It makes much more sense to expend a smaller amount of resources to identify and treat somebody’s substance abuse issue or their mental health diagnosis or a family system dynamic that’s leading to delinquent or unruly behavior. It’s much more practical and cost effective to intervene early in cases where someone needs a guardianship … than it is to wait until those situations blow up into major delinquent acts being committed or an adult who is in a dangerous situation coming to some physical harm or being taken advantage of economically and trying to put the pieces back together again.”
Hejmanowski added the juvenile court’s assessment center helps get juveniles the proper services to help them and hopefully prevent issues in the future.
“We’re already seeing it pay off in, for example, significant reduction in detention bed days that we use and the cost because there is a substantial cost of housing kids in detention,” he said. “It’s us trying to be pragmatic about how we end up involved in cases.”
Hejmanowski said the court’s goal is to “produce productive adults.”
“The most efficient and effective way we can do that is the way we ought to be doing it, and I think we’re getting better and better at that,” he said.
As for his next term, which begins in 2021, Hejmanowski said the court is “always planning for what comes next.”
In the probate court, Hejmanowski said he’s working with other agencies and organizations to form a Guardian Services Board in the county to provide guardianships within the county. Currently, guardians are volunteers or attorneys, he said, and as the elderly population of the county increases, the need for guardians will increase as well.
Hejmanowski added the board would be funded by multiple agencies, and his goal is to get the board up and running within the next year or so.
For the juvenile court, Hejmanowski said his staff is focused on getting through the pandemic, adding the court has learned a few things from the changes made to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We’ve learned a lot in that process,” he said.
Before the pandemic struck this year, Hejmanowski said there would typically be at least one hearing a week or sometimes even one hearing a day that would be missing a participant. Since moving a majority of hearings to an online setting nine months ago, however, there have been only a handful of times someone wasn’t able to make it.
Hejmanowski said he hears a lot from families that taking off work to come to a hearing is challenging, but it’s much easy for those people to attend a hearing on a break at work.
“We’re expecting them to work but they have to take time off to come to these hearings,” Hejmanowski said. “We’re definitely going to continue to offer to some folks to participate with technology. It makes the court accessible. The pandemic period was a great opportunity to learn.”
He added he’s looking forward to his next term.
“I just really enjoy this work. I just really enjoy this job,” Hejmanowski said. “I always say this is the job I love and it’s nice to have ended up in a place where you are doing something that you really enjoy doing and really care about doing. It’s why I’m excited to be able to do it for longer.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.