After early clash, smooth sailing on court nominations for Pa. Gov. Wolf

    Leaders from both sides of the aisle in the Pennsylvania Senate are exchanging preferred picks to fill two vacant seats on the state Supreme Court, a rare note of harmony among other executive nominations that have caused tension between the Republican-controlled chamber and Governor Tom Wolf’s administration.

    Wolf recalled 28 nominations and one appointment made late in his predecessor’s term. The Senate GOP is fighting the move, and said it will hurt the governor’s chances of seeing his cabinet secretaries approved. Cabinet picks require a two-thirds confirmation vote in the Senate.

    No such clash appears on the horizon for the two empty seats on the state’s high court, which Wolf said he hopes to fill.

    A spokesman said Wolf hopes the process can be “collaborative.” The Republican and Democratic Senate leaders say they’re working together to decide who could be confirmed and start work by March. Such a timeline would require nominations to be announced before mid-February, said Senate Democratic Minority Leader Jay Costa.

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    The two open slots are among three seats up for election this fall. Winners of the election will take office in January. Some have suggested it would take that long for any newly appointed justice to get up to speed.

    But Justice Corry Stevens, appointed to the Supreme Court in 2013, said not everyone takes long to adjust. He came to the job after 15 years on the Superior Court.

    “I had my law clerks with me, I had an office. I started working from day one,” said Stevens. “The work is difficult. The transition was easy.”

    A Senate GOP spokeswoman said there have been names that senators of both parties “find acceptable.”

    “The folks who are being vetted will not have a steep learning curve,” said Costa. He declined to name people under consideration. “The most important thing is to have a court functioning at seven members,” Costa said.

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