State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

This pick will come from guv, says legal expert

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Mar 26, 2013 10:41 PM
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One legal observer says the Supreme Court is all talk, no action when it comes to making its own pick to replace the suspended justice who plans to resign in May.

The high court's chief justice suggested his colleagues might make their own choice for a replacement, preempting an appointment by the governor to fill the upcoming vacancy.
But Bruce Ledewitz, a professor at Duquesne University School of Law, said if the Supreme Court justices were going to appoint someone, they would have done so months ago.

"Now that there's going to be an actual resignation and an actual vacancy, the state Constitution is very clear that the governor has 90 days to nominate when the vacancy becomes official," said Ledewitz. "And the Senate has a certain amount of time to confirm by two-thirds vote, and I'm sure that's what will happen."

Gov. Corbett has indicated he'll nominate a replacement. There are a few clear qualifications for the job, rooted either in law or in political reality.

The interim justice is required to be a member of the Pennsylvania Bar. Beyond that, though, a successful candidate will need to have a few other qualities.

"[Corbett] needs someone's who's respected, not controversial, and is sufficiently old that the promise not to run will be taken seriously," said Ledewitz. The seat soon to be vacant on the Supreme Court will be open to election in the fall of 2015. Judges must retire at the age of 70.

The seat will be vacant in May, when suspended Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin plans to resign. She is awaiting sentencing following her conviction on campaign corruption charges.

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