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The assistance of a skilled and trusted mediator or arbitrator can be helpful in resolving ongoing court litigation or other types of disputes, and in reducing the associated financial and psychological burdens. A mediator assists the parties in finding a mutually agreed on solution, while an arbitrator acts as a neutral decision maker and evaluates the merits of each party’s position.


The Hon. John M. Cleland, now retired after more than 36 years as a respected trial and appellate court judge, is available to act as a mediator or arbitrator. He brings experience developed over a long career as a lawyer and judge in addressing a wide variety of disputes, including personal injury, real estate, contracts, business matters, decedents’ estates, natural resources, and employment.

For inquiries, please contact us at 814-837-8720 or email

About Hon. John M. Cleland (Ret.)

Hon. John M. Cleland (Ret.) served as President Judge in McKean County from 1984 until 2008. Initially appointed to the McKean County Court of Common Pleas, he was subsequently elected in 1985, and reelected in 1995 and 2005. He was appointed to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, where he served through 2010. Cleland retired from judicial service in January 2022.

In 2009, he was appointed by the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania to chair the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice, which was charged with investigating the judicial corruption that led to the breakdown of the juvenile justice system in Luzerne County. The Report and Recommendations presented by the Commission on what had come to be known as the “Kids for Cash” scandal led to a number of significant reforms of Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system.

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While serving as a senior judge, Cleland was appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to handle a number of high profile matters, including Commonwealth v. Jerry Sandusky; Justice McCaffery’s libel action against Philadelphia news outlets; the redaction of the Grand Jury investigative report regarding child sexual assaults by Catholic priests; litigation regarding the Philadelphia bail system; and matters concerning Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s involvement in post-conviction proceedings filed by Mumia Abu Jamal, who had been convicted of murdering a Philadelphia police officer.

Active in matters involving juvenile justice, Judge Cleland served as a member of the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission (JCJC) for twelve years after being initially appointed by Governor Rendell in 2005. He was subsequently reappointed by Governor Rendell and twice by Governor Corbett. He also served as President of the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges’ Juvenile Court Section.

Throughout his career Judge Cleland has been an advocate for judicial education. He was instrumental in the creation of the Juvenile Justice Academies offered by the JCJC in partnership with the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. He served on the board administering Pennsylvania’s Continuing Judicial Education program. For more than twenty years he was on the faculty of Pennsylvania’s New Judges’ School, where he lectured on a variety of legal topics. Cleland served as co-chair of the Education Committee of the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges for eight years. He has also lectured throughout the United States and Canada on topics including institutional integrity, public health, continuity of court operations, and juvenile delinquency and dependency.

As concern loomed about the court system’s preparedness to address an epidemic of avian flu reminiscent of the pandemic of 1918, Judge Cleland led efforts to educate judges and court administrators. In this capacity he served as co-editor of the “Pennsylvania Public Health Law Benchbook,” the “Continuity of Operations Template for Pennsylvania Courts,” and of the manual for “Courthouse Preparedness for Bioterror/Biohazard Public Health Emergencies.”

He has been appointed to serve on a number of Pennsylvania Supreme Court committees, including the Orphans’ Court Rules Committee, and committees to study revisions to the administrative rules regarding the minor judiciary, statewide computer implementation, and continuing judicial education.

Cleland is the author of “Keeping the Faith,” a collection of essays on the history of Kane and McKean County. His articles on legal topics have appeared in the magazine Pennsylvania Lawyer and the newsletter of the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. Judge Cleland has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Distinction from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford and the President’s Distinguished Service Award from the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges. His other awards include the Heavy Lifting Award from the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges, the Robert I. Shadle Legal Excellence and Professionalism Award from the Herbert B. Cohen Chapter of the American Inn of Courts in York, the Golden Crowbar Award from the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges, and the Clarity in Writing Award from the Pennsylvania Bar Association Plain English Committee.

Judge Cleland was born and raised in Kane, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Denison University in 1969 and graduated with honors from the National Law Center of The George Washington University in 1972. Following the completion of a judicial clerkship in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh, he returned to Kane to eventually become a partner in the firm of Woods, Baker and Cleland. He and his wife live in Kane where he continues to be active in numerous community activities. They have two married daughters and four grandchildren.

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