The governor has nominated seven judges in three counties to fill judicial vacancies despite an agreement with state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille to keep the seats open in an effort to save money.
It started when Gov. Corbett nominated his former chief of staff, Bill Ward, to fill a judicial vacancy in Allegheny County. Then, late in the day on Friday, June 8, Corbett’s office announced that he was nominating another six judges to fill vacancies in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and York.
The governor’s spokesman is quoted, “It’s the governor’s prerogative to fill vacancies with qualified nominees.” However, if confirmed by the state Senate, the nominations come at a cost to the taxpayers of $1.17 million. The state will be responsible for the judges’ salaries. Common Pleas judges make $169,541 annually. Municipal court judges cost $165,617. Cash-strapped counties, however, will be responsible for paying about $260,400 per judge for three judicial staffers.
John Baer of the Philadelphia Daily News points out the growing dispute between the branches of government. He blogs, “The court and the legislature already are at odds over redistricting issues. Now the Guv and the courts are at odds over money.”
Allegheny County Councilman William Russell Robinson, D-Hill District, thinks that the state should pick up the tab for the new judges. “If it means people get speedier trials, I’m all for it, but I would much prefer that those appointments be accompanied by a check from Gov. Corbett.”