It’s unlikely that Pa. high court will draft replacement justice, analyst says

    One legal observer says Pennsylvania’s 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.

    Chief Justice Ron Castille has suggested his colleagues might make their own choice for a replacement, pre-empting an appointment by the governor to fill the vacancy.

    A professor at Duquesne University School of Law says that if the 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 and the Senate has a certain amount of time to confirm by two-thirds vote,” said Bruce Ledewitz. “And I’m sure that’s what will happen.”

    Governor’s role

    Gov. Tom Corbett has said he’ll nominate a replacement.

    The question before the governor, Ledewitz said, is a political one — who can he appoint who can win enough Democratic votes to secure confirmation from the state Senate?

    “He needs someone’s who’s respected, not controversial, and is sufficiently old that the promise not to run will be taken seriously,” Ledewitz said.

    Only Corbett has the authority to make an appointment once there’s an official vacancy in May, he added.

    Ledewitz says the only qualification for the seat is that the person filling it must be a lawyer. Castille has said it would be helpful to have someone with appellate court experience take the post.

    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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