Gov. Tom Corbett's former chief of staff Bill Ward isn't a slam-dunk pick for an open spot on the Allegheny County bench, reports Jan Murphy at the Patriot-News. Corbett's team wants Senate confirmation in June (which means wading through the complex political system where one party gets a judicial pick, then another, to get two-thirds support), and Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille has asked the governor to hold off on nominations as a budgetary measure.
The courts face a nearly $9 million budget shortfall and each judge is worth $200K -- as there are four other bench spots open (including another in Allegheny County) filling them could cost $1 million. And it's not as if the courts on Grant Street are desperate for help, Castille told Murphy:
In requesting the moratorium on filling vacancies, Castille said he recognized heavy caseloads, particularly in counties with only a few judges, might require exceptions.
However, Castille said Allegheny County President Judge Donna Jo McDaniel told him her court’s caseload has declined. Allegheny County has 43 judges and two vacancies. Efforts to contact McDaniel on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
. . . Providing political balance to judicial nominations is often necessary. Judicial confirmation requires approval of two-thirds of the Senate.
With the current makeup of the Senate, at least four Democratic votes will be needed, even if all 29 Republican senators cast favorable votes.
But top-level GOP Senate staffers questioned whether Corbett can count on all those Republican votes.