TOWANDA - Former Bradford County District Attorney Robert B. McGuinness has been appointed to be the full-time hearing master for Bradford County, Bradford County officials announced recently.

McGuinness replaces Joan F. Shullo, who has served as the county's hearing master since 1988 and who is retiring.

The hearing master conducts hearings and recommends decisions on child support cases, child support contempt cases, divorce cases, juvenile dependency cases, and juvenile delinquency cases. The hearing master also sets alimony, spousal support and child support amounts.

All of the recommended decisions of the hearing master are then reviewed by a judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Bradford County. If the decision is accepted by the judge, it becomes an order of the court.

McGuinness said he is taking the job as hearing master as "another way to help the community and do something good for my last 10 years."

McGuinness had served as Bradford County's district attorney from 1996 to 2000, and was the county's assistant public defender from 1987 to 1988.

He has been an attorney for 30 years.

McGuinness will be paid an annual salary of $65,000, the Bradford County Salary Board decided at its most recent meeting.

McGuinness was one of five candidates for the position, all of whom were interviewed by a court-appointed panel consisting of Bradford County Court judges Maureen Beirne and Jeffrey Smith, Bradford County District Court Administrator Mary Lou Vanderpool, and Bradford County Deputy District Court Administrator Mary Corbin, Vanderpool said.

The panel selected McGuinness, as he was the best-qualified candidate, Vanderpool said.

McGuinness was then officially appointed to the position by Smith, who is the president judge of the county.

McGuinness' appointment is effective Feb. 19.

McGuinness said he is giving up his law practice at the Zeller Law Firm in Sayre to take the hearing master job. Gerard Zeller, the other attorney at the Zeller Law Firm, will continue to operate the Zeller Law Firm, McGuinness said.

McGuinness has a law degree from the University of Alabama and a B.A. in history and English from Purdue University.

Judge Smith declined to comment on McGuinness' appointment.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.