Leach's Supreme Court candidate list stirs ire in GOP quarters

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee did something no other lawmaker has done publicly: he offered the governor his list of "confirmable" nominees for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

 Some might call it Senate Democrats flexing their newfound leglative muscle, given that their votes are now needed in the judicial confirmation process. 

State Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery) says he is trying to help speed what could be a contentious confirmation process to replace Justice Joan Orie Melvin who is stepping down May 1 following her conviction on political corruption charges.

That leaves the high court with a 3-3 split along party lines.

"This is the deciding vote," said Leach in an interview. "This was a sincere effort avoid nasty partisan confirmation fight,"

In a letter to Gov. Corbett, Leach suggested five GOP judges that he said he and likely other Senate Democrats would support.

They are: Superior Court Judge Cheryl Allen; Superior Court President Judge Correale Stevens; Delaware County Judge Kathrynann Durham; Montgomery County Judge Thomas Branca; and Lackawanna County Judge Carmen Minora.

Leach said he came up with the list after having conversations with many lawyers and advocates who gave those names when asked which judge they would feel most comfortable hearing their cases regardless of which side they were on.

Confirmation of candidates requires a two-thirds majority (34) vote in the Senate. The Democrats won three seats in November narrowing GOP control to 27-23 in the upper chamber and ensuring their votes would be needed to fill the Melvin seat.

But at least one GOP Senate leader didn't take too kindly to Leach's list.

Sen. Jake Corman (R., Centre) told the online news service Capitolwire that Leach was being an "obstructionist" and a publicity hound.

“I think he is overstepping his bounds of responsibility here," said Corman, who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "In my 16 years here, never has any senator done this, say publicly here’s a list of whom you can nominate, if you want us to confirm them."

Leach, who is running for Congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, said if Corman wants to see the definition of obstructionist he should look at the Republicans in the U.S. Senate holding up President Obama's nominees.

"Jake's off the reservation," said Leach, adding he was only trying to make process shrouded in back room meetings and secret deals more transparent. "He's slamming me for trying to make the process more transparent.These are not liberals, they are moderate Republicans."

For his part, Corbett, when asked about the list on Tuesday, chose not to wade into the partisan skirmish. But neither did he offer whether he would take any of the names under advisement.

“Interesting names he put in there,” Corbett told the Patriot-News of Harrisburg “Most of them I don’t know. But I do know a couple.”

Melvin had served as a Superior Court judge before being elected to the high court in 2009. She was convicted in February of theft of services, conspiracy and misappropriation of state property for using her staff and resources for her judicial campaigns.

Her sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie is serving 2-1/2 to 10 years in state prison for public corruption and forgery.







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