In Pennsylvania, Governor Nominates a New Justice while Another Sitting Justice Faces a Criminal Investigation

June 17, 2013

Governor Tom Corbett nominated superior court judge Correale F. Stevens to fill the supreme court vacancy created by former justice Joan Orie Melvin's resignation following her criminal conviction. Stevens' nomination must be confirmed by a two-thirds vote of  the state senate, but an uncontroversial confirmation is expected since Stevens, a Republican, was included on a list of five favorable nominees that senate Democrats sent to the governor last month. At the same time, a sitting supreme court justice is now the subject of an FBI investigation. The investigation is focusing on whether Justice Seamus McCaffery and his wife, who serves as his chief aide, violated the state Ethics Act when she received fees for referring clients to personal-injury law firms. The act precludes public officials from using their authority "for the private pecuniary benefit" of their families. In comments to the media, Chief Justice Ronald Castille encouraged McCaffery to "reconsider his position on the court" in light of the investigation.