Judge Gartley offers life lessons to freshman class during Convocation Ceremony

Judge Gartley delivers her speech.
Judge Gartley delivers her speech.
President Botzman and Chairman Metz present honorary degree.
President Botzman and Chairman Metz present honorary degree.

Misericordia University alumna Tina Polachek Gartley ’88, a Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas judge, welcomed to campus the second largest freshman class in the 89-year history of the institution on Thursday, Aug. 22 by sharing with them, and their family and friends three of the many lessons she learned during her four years on campus: “treat others as we want to be treated,” “be yourself,’’ and “study hard, but live and love harder.’’

 Judge Gartley delivered the keynote at the annual Convocation Ceremony in the Wells Fargo Amphitheater. The event acts as a welcoming to this year’s 430 first-year students – the second largest freshman class in MU’s history – and their families. It also marks the official start to the new academic school year for the record-setting 3,058 students who are enrolled for the fall semester. Classes begin Aug. 26.
“In preparing today’s remarks, I spent countless hours recalling the great times I had and the even greater lessons I learned while at Misericordia,’’ said Gartley, who received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree during the ceremony. “With your indulgence, I would like to share three of those lessons with you.’’
Gartley earned her Bachelor of Arts degree summa cum laude in history and English with minors in writing and Russian area studies at MU. She also learned to live “the Golden Rule’’ and paraphrased author Robert Fulghum in order to reinforce the first lesson with incoming students.
“We could learn a lot from crayons,’’ said Gartley, a native and resident of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. “Some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright. Some have weird names and all are different colors, but they all have learned to live together in the same box.
“Like crayons, the human race needs to live in the same box,’’ added Gartley, the mother of three sons, Shamus, Joshua and Ian. “It is time to get better at it, and the values and lessons taught and learned at Misericordia will make it happen.’’
The jurist also stressed to the first-year students the importance of always being themselves, no matter the challenges they are confronted with in today’s possession-driven society. “After four years at Misericordia, I had confidence that was beyond measure,’’ she shared. “I have stood in classrooms and courtrooms with some of the brightest individuals from the most recognizable colleges and universities in the country – Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Brown – but my confidence never waned.
“Misericordia prepared me well. As a result, I was never interested in being someone else or following someone else. I was only ever interested in being me and in celebrating my individuality. Always be yourself,’’ Gartley added.
The third lesson she offered was about relationships and the friendships that will be forged forever during the students’ years at Misericordia. “You will look back at today and the four years that follow as the times you will always remember – with the friends you will never forget,’’ she stated. “And when you do, I hope that you are able to say that because you studied hard, but lived and loved harder you not only survived life’s storms, but that you and your friends danced in the rain.’’
As a lawyer and jurist, Gartley has worked to restore civility to society. During her 18 years as a prosecutor and attorney, she worked to convict criminals that threatened the security of families and communities. In 1996, Gartley became the first S.T.O.P. (Stop Violence Against Women) grant prosecutor in the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office. As a S.T.O.P. grant prosecutor, she specialized in prosecuting crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence. She also handled Protection From Abuse Court (PFA) and prosecuted hundreds of PFA violations. During this time, Gartley also instructed law enforcement officials, and medical and legal professionals on the protocols and procedures of sexual assault and domestic violence crimes and investigations.
In 2002, Judge Gartley parlayed her work with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to the Barbara J. Hart Justice Center. The Justice Center provides civil legal representation to survivors of domestic violence and assaults in Lackawanna and Susquehanna counties. As the managing and senior attorney, she continued to promote the rights of survivors through her legal work and public speaking until her election to the bench in 2010.
Prior to her election to the bench, Judge Gartley participated on local domestic violence task forces in Lackawanna, Luzerne and Susquehanna counties working to make the communities safer. She has been a designated speaker for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, and the Justice Center. She was also an instructor for the Pennsylvania Victim Assistance Academy and the Pennsylvania Bar Institute.
Today, she is a member of the Luzerne County Juvenile Task Force, Luzerne County Domestic Violence Task Force and the Luzerne County Elder Abuse Task Force. Gartley is also a member of the statewide Dependency Bench Book Committee, the Pennsylvania Trial Judge Association Criminal Law Committee and the Luzerne County Policy Board.
Gartley received her Juris Doctorate degree from Syracuse University College of Law in 1991 and was elected to the bench in November 2009. She is currently the administrating judge of Juvenile Delinquency Court and Dependency Court.