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Corbett Offers Little Clues on State Supreme Court Vacancy

Gov. Tom Corbett isn’t giving any indication of what kind of influence the Senate Democrats may have over who he’ll nominate to fill an upcoming vacancy on the state Supreme Court.

The minority caucus will be crucial, since confirmation requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate.   

Last week, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent Corbett a list of five names – all Republican judges – from which to choose to guarantee a swift confirmation process.

Spokesman Kevin Harley said the governor will take that shortlist into consideration, but he suggested a quick confirmation isn’t his utmost priority.

"It is his hope, that, whomever he nominates, they will be considered on the merits of their qualifications for the job," Harley said.

The court’s vacancy will be official in May, when suspended Justice Joan Orie Melvin plans to resign as she awaits sentencing for her conviction on campaign corruption charges.

Chief Justice Ron Castille said last month the vacancy should be filled as soon as possible by the governor and the state Senate, adding that the seven-justice court cannot function when it’s missing a member.

The bench is currently occupied by three Republicans and three Democrats.