Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas Judge Samuel A. “Gus” Kline will retire as a full-time judge at the close of business on Sept. 30.

In an interview with LebTown, Kline confirmed that he submitted a letter of resignation on Monday, June 27, to the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts, the arm of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that oversees judges and attorneys.

He said he has asked the state’s highest court to give him “senior judge” status, which would allow him to continue presiding in Lebanon County for up to 10 days a month, and to preside in other counties as needed. Senior status is not guaranteed.

Kline, 71, was first elected to the bench as a Democrat in 1995, and was retained by voters for two additional 10-year terms. He could have served until he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. 

Asked why he decided to retire now, Kline said, “You get to a point where you say ‘enough is enough,’ that’s pretty much what happened to me.”

Pennsylvania law allows for judicial elections in odd years, meaning that a new judge can be elected in November 2023, as long as the vacancy arises more than 10 months in advance. Had Kline waited until after Jan. 6, 2023, to retire – less than 10 months before the 2023 election – a new judge could not have been elected until November 2025.

Not wanting to cause an extended vacancy on the local court, Kline said his goal “was to lessen the impact on President Judge [John C.] Tylwalk and the other judges.”

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf could nominate an interim judge to serve until the November 2023 election, but the selection would be subject to confirmation by the Republican-controlled state Senate. Kline expressed doubt that Republicans would approve a Democratic interim nominee before then.

Kline practiced law in Lebanon County for nearly 20 years before his election to the bench, many of those with his wife, Ann. He is the son of former Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Ernest P. Kline.

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He graduated from Lehigh University and the Duquesne University School of Law.

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