Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Guv's "Make-a-Wish" Appointment

Corbett's appointment of his chief of staff to the Allegheny County bench has ticked off the state's Republican Supreme Court chief and a Democratic state Senator.

The Guv's "Make-a-Wish" Appointment

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And in the category of, hey, in politics ya can't do nuthin' without tickin' somebody off, Gov. Corbett is catching flak for nominating his chief of staff to be an Allegheny County judge.

First, fellow-Republican and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille says he had a deal with Corbett not to fill judicial vacancies because courts are in a fiscal pinch and judges cost money: in the case of county judges, $200,000 a-pop.

Castille told the Harrisburg Patriot-News he was surprised to hear of the nomination of Corbett's now-former chief of staff Bill Ward since Castille was recently with Corbett and Ward and nobody mentioned the plan.

Plus, Castille said the state court system has an $8.7 million shortfall and each local judge, with salary, benefits, office and staff, costs taxpayers about $200,000 (each county judge currently makes $169,541).

Ward is Corbett's first judicial appointment since taking office, but Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley told the Patriot the deal was the Guv wouldn't fill any vacancies for a year.

Meanwhile, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee (judicial appointments require Senate confirmation) pounced on Corbett's comments regarding the appointment, likening them to a "make-a-wish" moment.

Corbett had said, "For as long as I’ve known Bill, it’s been his dream to be a judge. I’m happy to help make that dream happen."

Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montco, said, "If he wants to send Mr. Ward to Disneyland or wants to get him to meet Beyonce, I would have no problem with that as long as it didn’t involve state money.”

Ward's appointment to the bench is widely viewed as part of a reboot of the administration, which has come under criticism for lackluster leadership. Ward's been replaced by Corbett's general counsel, Steve Aichele, now the Guv's new chief of staff.

It's likely we haven't heard the last of the judicial appointment. Senate confirmation requires a two-thirds vote, which means all Republicans and a handful of Democrats are needed to make Ward a judge.

Becasue of that, it's common for such confirmations are done in political tandem, one Republican for one Democrat, which Castille points out could lead to costing even more money as the court system struggles with its finances.

It's all just further proof ya can't do nuthin' without ticking somebody off, including and especially taxpayers.

Daily News Political Columnist
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About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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