State House Sound Bites

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

Corbett mum on timetable to fill soon-to-be court vacancy

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 22, 2013 9:54 PM
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Gov. Corbett isn't giving any indication of what kind of influence the Senate Democrats may have over who he'll nominate to fill an upcoming vacancy on the state Supreme Court.

The minority caucus will be crucial, since confirmation requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate.

Last week, Sen. Daylin Leach, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent Corbett a list of five names - all Republican judges - from which to choose to guarantee a swift confirmation process.

Spokesman Kevin Harley says the governor will take that shortlist into consideration, but suggests a quick confirmation isn't his utmost priority.

"It is his hope, that, whomever he nominates, they will be considered on the merits of their qualifications for the job," said Harley.

The court's vacancy will be official in May, when suspended Justice Joan Orie Melvin plans to resign as she awaits sentencing for her conviction on campaign corruption charges. From the official date of resignation, Corbett has 90 days to nominate a replacement to the Senate.

Chief Justice Ron Castille said last month the vacancy should be filled as soon as possible by the governor and the state Senate, adding that the seven-justice court cannot function when it's missing a member. The bench is currently occupied by three Republicans and three Democrats.

It's not as if Leach's letter is receiving unimpressed sniffs from Republicans. Some suggest the names he offered are quite reasonable. The majority chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, called the shortlist "very helpful."

"We have to work together,' said Greenleaf about bipartisan efforts to advance a confirmation-ready candidate to the governor's office. "I think it will start in earnest when the vacancy becomes effective."

And though the Democrats will be necessary collaborators to make the Supreme Court whole, Greenleaf doubts their seat at this table advances their hand on budget negotiations.

"I don't think that will have an impact on who the nominee is," he said.

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