A Senate panel this afternoon sent Gov. Tom Corbett's judicial nomination of his former chief of staff for a hearing, moving a step forward in the process to confirm Bill Ward as a common pleas judge in Allegheny County.
That hearing on the appointments of Ward and Paul Cozza, another candidate for the Allegheny County bench, is scheduled for tomorrow in Harrisburg.
That progress is in spite of skepticism from state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille regarding whether the appointments are necessary, telling the Harrisburg Patriot-News recently that the county's caseload has declined.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, said after the panel vote that the process for filling vacancies has traditionally been "at the discretion of the governor." He added that senators have read the chief justice's comments, but have not received any direct communication from Castille.