Updated March 17, 5:45 p.m.
Williamsport, Pa. — Former Congressman Tom Marino has the green light to run for Lycoming County district attorney.
Friday, Senior Judge Edward D. Reibman of Lehigh County ruled the petition to set aside Marino's nomination petition, filed by Todd Bartley, be denied.
Bartley, content developer for TalkWilliamsport.com and News Talk WMPT on Facebook, challenged the nomination petition submitted by DA hopeful Tom Marino, alleging that Marino has not resided in Lycoming County for one year preceeding the election for district attorney as required by code.
Related reading: Local media figure challenges Tom Marino's petition for Lycoming County DA in court
Marino moved to Vero Beach, Florida, in October of 2022. Between the dates of Nov. 7, 2022 and Feb. 4, 2023, Marino admitted to "residing" in Vero Beach, Florida. He registered to vote in Florida, obtained a Florida driver's license, and registered his vehicle in Florida.
Reibman said Bartley did not meet his burden of proving that Marino became a domicile of Florida. He wrote, "Marino was domiciled in Pennsylvania from birth until, at least, November 7, 2022. However, even after that date, he continued to maintain his Lycoming County residence. He did not move his household goods and possessions to Florida. He did not file to become a domiciliary of Florida. He listed his Lycoming County address as his residence when he obtained medical services while residing in Florida. He did not vote in Florida."
Marino, former four-term Congressman and U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, announced his intent to run for Lycoming County DA on Feb. 5, 2023.
"Many people own vacation homes in Florida," Marino's attorney, Ronald Hicks, argued on Wednesday. "That doesn't mean they change their domicile," he said.
The former politician was born and raised in Lycoming County, received his education in Pennsylvania, practiced law, raised children, and maintains a home in Lycoming County. Therefore, Lycoming County is his domicile, council said.
On his Facebook page, Bartley posted, "According to Petitioner Todd Bartley, 'the acknowledgment by Senior Judge Edward D. Reibman in his Order that Marino resided in Florida from November 7, 2022 through February 2023, is huge. It was always my intention to have this case heard before the Commonwealth Court; so that Tom Marino can be an example to all 67 Pennsylvania Counties and the election laws of this Commonwealth."
Bartley said he will file an appeal.
On Wednesday, Marino testified that he registered to vote in Florida in order to be eligible to participate in the Republican Executive Committee in Indian River County.
"I did not intend to vote, and I never did vote in a Florida election," he said. "I wanted to be able to help candidates [as a member of the Executive Committee] for the party whenever I was able to."
Marino and his wife both voted via absentee ballots in the Nov. 2022 General Election in Pennsylvania.
Marino said he changed his driver's license and vehicle registration to abide by Florida law and his homeowner's association guidelines.
"I wasn't going to take the chances," he said, of violating Florida law that a resident had to obtain a Florida license or face a fine up to $500 or more, or jail time.
Additionally, the neighborhood homeowner's association works closely with the Indian River County police to ensure residents are driving vehicles that bear Florida registration, he testified.
Marino's council referred to "page 9, section 13 of the Gatehouse Security Policy," indicating the rule to have a "legally registered" vehicle.
Marino also said the opportunity to run for Lycoming County District Attorney changed his intentions of staying in Florida. Marino surrendered his Florida driver's license on February 4, 2023, in exchange for his Pa. license.
President Judge Nancy Butts has recused all Lycoming County judges from hearing the litigation, citing conflict of interest.
Marino is the sole candidate for the Lycoming County DA position.