NORRISTOWN — As dozens of relatives, friends and former colleagues looked on with joy, Todd N. Barnes, a lawyer with two decades of experience who has strong ties to the Norristown community, took his oath of office as the newest district court judge in the borough.
“I am ready,” Barnes, 45, said confidently Wednesday as his swearing-in ceremony got under way at the Montgomery County Courthouse where he officially took his judicial seat in Montgomery County’s Magisterial District Court 38-2-09, which encompasses parts of Norristown.
County President Judge Carolyn T. Carluccio administered the oath of office to Barnes as he placed his left hand on a Bible held by his wife, Aneesah.
“I am so proud of him. It’s just a blessing. He waited for this. He worked really hard for this. He’s also the right man for the job, full of honesty, integrity, and he will serve the people well,” Aneesah Barnes said after the ceremony.
Carluccio said it was her “distinct honor” to administer the oath of office to Barnes.
“To see the family and friend support and colleagues, it’s overwhelming,” Carluccio said.
Barnes, a father of eight, smiled with pride as his parents, children and other relatives and friends snapped photographs and videotaped the special moment with their cellphones.
Barnes was assisted with his robing by his wife and John Savoth, county deputy court administrator of special courts.
“If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have made it,” Barnes said humbly, thanking his family, and especially his parents for their support and encouragement. “Their support was unfailing, unflinching as you would expect from a parent. But it’s because of their love and support that I can stand before you today.”
Barnes, who was born and raised in Philadelphia but who has lived in Norristown since 2004, fills a vacancy created when former District Court Judge Gregory Scott stepped down in February 2022 to successfully seek a state representative post.
Barnes cross-filed during the May 16 primary election and won both the Democratic and Republican nominations to appear on November’s general election ballot, essentially winning the post during the primary.
Given the vacancy on the district court, the governor’s office nominated Barnes to take the seat early and his appointment was recently confirmed by the state Senate. Barnes will fill Scott’s term through Dec. 31 and then begin his full six-year term as elected district judge in January 2024.
“It’s been a journey. It’s been a blessing,” Barnes said after the ceremony.
Barnes previously worked in the county district attorney’s office since Feb. 1, 2016, where he served as captain of the office’s Norristown Community Justice Unit and participated in many of the office’s community-based crime reduction efforts. Most recently, Barnes was the assistant chief of appeals, engaging in and supervising appellate prosecution.
During his tenure as a prosecutor, Barnes mentored youth as a facilitator of a Youth Court program at Norristown Area High School and participated in student programs designed to engage and inspire high school and middle school students, including civics education and seminars on navigating police encounters.
Barnes took a moment on Wednesday to thank his former colleagues for all of their support.
“Thank you for allowing me to sort of be myself and do some of the community stuff that we enjoy doing,” said Barnes, referring to his history of investing in and inspiring young people to steer them away from the justice system.
“A lot of people think very differently on the outside about where the heart is in the DA’s office but I know firsthand where that heart is and wanting to see our community do well, wanting to see our young people do well and so I want to thank you all for supporting me in that work and for continuing that work,” Barnes added.
District court judges are elected to six-year terms and preside over criminal preliminary arraignments and preliminary hearings, summary criminal offenses, traffic offenses, municipal code violations, landlord/tenant disputes, and civil claims where damages do not exceed $12,000.
During the campaign, Barnes said his legal experience and commitment to the community were strong qualifications for the district judge post.
At the time, explaining why he sought the post, Barnes said, “In my mind, the courtroom is a sacred space that lies at the intersection of things that I’m passionate about. I’m running to promote and protect justice and fairness, to make sure all of our people are treated with the dignity, courtesy and respect they deserve, to help our people resolve any differences in a fair and reasonable way, and to provide much-needed oversight and accountability when law enforcement brings criminal charges.”
After earning his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Kutztown University in 1999, Barnes went on to graduate in 2002 from Temple University Beasley School of Law, where he was editor of the Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review.
According to his resume, Barnes worked in private practice, first as a summer associate and then as an associate attorney, from 2000 to 2007, with the Blue Bell law firm of Elliott Greenleaf & Siedzikowski.
Barnes then served as a judicial law clerk for the state Supreme Court from 2007 to 2008 and as a chief judicial clerk for the Commonwealth Court from 2008 to 2012. From 2013 to 2015, Barnes served as a staff attorney and judicial clerk in the Office of the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania.
Earlier this year, Barnes was appointed by the state Supreme Court to be a member of the state Appellate Court Procedural Rules Committee for a term of six years.