Lebanon attorney Donna Long Brightbill, a Republican, is the first announced candidate for the Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas vacancy created by the recent retirement of Judge Samuel A. Kline.

Voters will elect a new judge to a 10-year term in November 2023.

Brightbill, 62, is a partner in Lebanon law firm Long Brightbill. She has been an attorney since 1988. According to a recent online biography, her practice is evenly divided between family, real estate, and municipal law. 

Brightbill is the first candidate to announce a desire to fill the  seat on the four-judge local court. Kline resigned in September and has become a part-time senior judge.

In addition to maintaining a private law practice for 34 years, first in Harrisburg then in Lebanon, Brightbill spent seven years as an assistant Lebanon County District Attorney, during which time she obtained convictions in a number of felony cases.

She has been the City of Lebanon’s solicitor since 2010, and also represents the Bethel and North Cornwall township zoning hearing boards and the Lebanon County Housing and Redevelopment Authority. She is a former assistant county solicitor.

Brightbill graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the Duquesne University School of Law, where she was third in her class. 

In a media release, Brightbill said Lebanon County “needs a judge with a varied legal background to properly adjudicate a broad array of cases,” and that she “would bring more than three decades of hard work, scholarship, and experience in these kinds of cases to the position.”

Her Jan. 11 announcement marks the second time that Brightbill and Kline have been connected to a Lebanon County judicial vacancy. Kline, running as a Democrat, beat her in 1995 in a race to fill an empty spot on the local bench created by the retirement of then President Judge John A. Walter.

Brightbill is part of a politically connected Republican family. Her husband, David “Chip” Brightbill, was a Pennsylvania state senator who held a Republican leadership position. Her brother, Mike Long, is a founder of the GOP-connected Harrisburg lobbying firm, Long Nyquist LLC. Her nephew, Casey Long, is a former county Republican chair and is an associate at Long Nyquist.

Pennsylvania county courts are known as the Court of Common Pleas. Judges are elected for 10-year terms. Once elected, they can be retained for additional 10-year terms or removed in a simple “yes or no” election, and can serve until reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75 years.

Common Pleas Court judges received a $197,119 salary in 2022. In 2023, they will benefit from a 7.8% pay raise, pushing their annual salaries to over $212,000.

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Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...


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