Houck takes DA oath of office
For the first time since 1991, Northampton County has a new district attorney. John Morganelli, who held the office for an unprecedented 28 years, has been succeeded by his first deputy, Terrence Houck, who was sworn into office Jan. 6.
Houck is a career prosecutor who has spent 32 years in the district attorney’s offices of Bucks, Lehigh and Northampton counties. His last 13 years have been spent as Northampton County’s first deputy DA.
Before he became a lawyer, Houck worked as a police officer in Philadelphia and attended Temple Law School at night.
“Being elected as district attorney has been a life goal since the time I became a career prosecutor over 32 years ago,” Houck said on election night, Nov. 5, 2019. “This is who I am. I will seek no other office.”
Like Morganelli before him, Houck will try cases.
When Morganelli was first elected, the office of district attorney was a part-time job, and nine of his 11 assistants were part-time prosecutors with private practices. Morganelli argued he and his assistants should devote 100 percent of their professional time to prosecuting criminal cases.
The voters agreed, changing the Home Rule Charter to make his office full time. Since then, Morganelli replaced retiring part-time prosecutors with full-time professionals. All of Houck’s current 22 assistants now have just one client — the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Houck has formed a leadership group consisting of Richard Huntington Pepper, first deputy DA, and three prosecutors who have been promoted to chief deputy DA. They are William Blake, chief deputy of investigations; Patricia Fuentes Mulqueen, chief deputy of prosecutions; and Tatum Wilson, chief deputy of training.
“These changes will create a clear chain of command and will provide the office with a structure that will create consistency and uniformity among our units,” Houck said.
Houck vows to continue the community outreach established by Morganelli, who visited every municipality in the county.
He also vows to strengthen victims’ services, start participating in problem-solving courts, establish a child advocacy center, update the website, increase training and create a social media presence.