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Politics & Government

Wolf’s High Court Nominees Poised For Passage

The governor’s nominees selected to fill two vacancies on the state Supreme Court appear poised for easy approval by the state Senate.

On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf selected Democrat Ken Gormley, dean of Duquesne Law School, and Republican Thomas Kistler, Centre County President Judge.

Other gubernatorial nominations have caused tension between the administration and the state Senate, which can block the executive’s picks. But this process has no whiff of conflict. And at least one pick, Kistler, was left nearly swooning over the “personal” way in which he was informed of his nomination.

“I’m sittin’ in court, and my cell phone goes off, and it’s not some lady or some man saying ‘Excuse me, can you hold for the governor,’” said Kistler. “It was this male voice that said, ‘Hi, I’m Tom Wolf.’”

Both Kistler and Gormley said they won’t run for seats on the Supreme Court after their interim term is up early next January.

“I have pledged not to run for the Court and will return to my position at the Law School when this interim appointment is concluded,” said Gormley in a written statement.

Kistler isn’t sure what he’ll do after serving on the state’s high court.  

“When the people who are elected take office, I will become unemployed, and I’ll have to look at an opportunity at that time,” Kistler said.

The last person appointed to the high court was Justice Corry Stevens in 2013. He claims he never made a similar commitment.

“It never came up and I would not be running if I made that promise,” said Stevens on Friday. “I understand now ... that that was unusual.”

Stevens is among more than a dozen candidates vying for three open seats on the bench in elections this fall.