Judge Skerda speaks to Well Armed Woman
Thirty-seventh Judicial District Judge Maureen A. Skerda was invited to speak at the November’s monthly meeting of the Warren County Well Armed Woman chapter.
Judge Skerda touched on her beginnings with shooting, and her experience since. She also briefly mentioned the circumstances which lead to her appointment by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to handle the child sexual abuse resentencing hearing for former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
“It’s important to recognize that women have interest in shooting, have interest in the outdoors and that we hold up half of the County,” said Judge Skerda.
Judge Skerda grew up in Aurora, Illinois, graduating from Rosary High School. She went on to major in history in undergrad at Illinois Wesleyan university then on to law school at the Antioch School of Law in Washington, DC.
Antioch is a clinical law school, so as Judge Skerda was taking classes, she was also legally representing people.
“As long as you had a real lawyer sitting in court next to you, you were able to practice,” said Judge Skerda.
Before entering the legal system, Judge Skerda worked at an air freshener company, Kmart, Anchor Brush Company and was even waitressing as carhop at a drive-in.
Following graduation from law school, she applied to legal services around the country, Warren bit first.
“I really love Warren County, the variety of outdoors here is beautiful, we have such a gift. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world and most untouched,” said Judge Skerda.
She came to Warren County in 1988, working as a legal services attorney for a couple of years before becoming first assistant district attorney. Her first experience with holding a firearm was at “DA camp.”
The head of the DA’s association at the time required all to qualify in terms of shooting. Judge Skerda was handed a hand gun with human silhouette targets.
“I found it to be relaxing and a good experience. You focus on so many things to shoot, breathing, where you are and the target,” said Judge Skerda.
She married her husband in 1994, they are celebrating 25 years of marriage this year. He introduced her to hunting.
“I felt comfortable hunting here, it felt right, I understood the land,” said Judge Skerda. She recalled one hunting trip with her husband, “I got up there with my husband, we were hunting elk. I thought, okay, this is fun I’ll walk and spot for him. So I see something coming and I said ‘it’s coming, it’s coming, get ready!’ Turns out it was a mountain goat, I’m still a city girl, I’m still learning.”
Judge Skerda also enjoys embroidery, knitting and sewing.
“When I quilt, I finish something. And so often in law and as a judge, it isn’t ever finished. There’s higher courts, sometimes litigation goes on for years. Sewing, knitting, you can complete a project and it’s done,” said Judge Skerda.
She was elected as the first female Judge of the 37th Judicial District and began her first term in January 2006. She became the 26th President Judge on January 1, 2010.
“I love being a judge,” she said. “One of the nice things about this work is you’re never out of work. It’s interesting, it’s challenging, no day is the same.”
Judge Skerda said that her favorite cases to handle are adoption cases. “It seems like a happy day in court for most involved, I’m able to tell a child ‘you have a forever home.'”
One of the members of the Well Armed Woman asked Judge Skerda if she carries at work, she responded no.
“I like to be in total control when carrying, so I do not carry everyday,” she said. “My mind is somewhere else a lot of the time and when I’m carrying I want to make sure that my primary purpose is to carry. I do carry occasionally, I have my permit. When I do, it’s usually under my arm or on my back.”
Judge Skerda was also asked how she became appointed to the Sandusky case.
She said there was no rhyme or reason, it was completely random. The largest factor in choosing a judge for the Sandusky case was a lack of connection to Penn State, whether personal, family or spousal.
“They really looked for people that didn’t have a connection,” she said.
Judge Skerda herself is from out of state, her husband is from out of the area and none of her family has attended Penn State.
There was a meeting of the President Judges in late September during which she was taken aside and asked if she would be willing to take the case on, she did not answer immediately.
“I waited overnight, prayed about it and really thought is this something I want to do, do I have the skills, is this something I should do. I came to the conclusion, yes I can,” said Judge Skerda.
The trial should only take Judge Skerda out of the County for one day.
“The bottom line is, I have work here and that’s what’s important to me,” said Judge Skerda.