A tangled judicial/municipal/political melodrama may be resolving itself amid reports of a revised proposal from local officials that could spare a district judge seat that been the pivot point for several candidates’ electoral maneuvering.
Pittsburgh Councilman Doug Shields said late Friday that he’d been informed that Judge Donna Jo McDaniel, the president judge of Common Pleas Court, had agreed to recommend that an East End district judge seat be spared from a still-evolving consolidation plan working its way through a budget-squeezed court system. In a plan released earlier this month, the local court originally recommended that three of the county’s district judge positions, including a Squirrel Hill/Shadyside seat held by Judge Nathan Firestone, be eliminated. Now, in a revised plan, the Firestone seat would be spared. Still targeted for elimination are seats held by Judges Ross C. Cioppa, whose district includes Braddock, Rankin and Swissvale; and Regis C. Welsh Jr., who covers Pine, Richland and Hampton.
Mr. Shields said that local court officials had acceded to protest from local judges who were concernd at the caseload demands of the consolidation plan. The former council president has a particular interest in the developments because he has for months been planning to run for the judicial seat, which was to be opened by Mr. Firestone’s pending retirement. But the prospect of the seat’s elimination could lead Mr. Shields to run instead for re-election to his council post.
The possibility has led to friction between the incumbent and a longtime ally, Corey O’Connor, the son of Mr. Shields old boss, the late Mayor Bob O’Connor. The younger O’Connor announced last week that he would seek the council seat regardless of Mr. Shields’ ultimate decision.
The final chapters on all this has yet to be written as the final decision on the judicial reorganization rests with the state Supreme Court. An official of the court administrator’s office in Harrisburg said the court had yet to receive any formal notice of a revised Allegheny County plan. Local court officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the situation.