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Corbett Criticized for Appointing Former Staffer to Judge

Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) is one of Corbett's main critics, saying "If he wants to send Mr. Ward to Disneyland or wants to get him to meet Beyonce, I would have no problem with that as long as it didn’t involve state money."

With Pennsylvania courts facing a sizeable budgetary shortfall this year, some state officials have questioned Gov. Tom Corbett’s recent appointment of his former chief of staff to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

Corbett announced his intention to nominate Bill Ward to the court last Thursday, after Ward announced his resignation earlier that day.

But after last year’s agreement between Corbett and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille to refrain from appointing new justices, Corbett has received backlash from Castille as well as other court officials.

Ward’s appointment came after state Republicans called for a shakeup in Corbett’s staff, considering the lack of progress being made on key party issues, like liquor-store privatization and school vouchers.

This legislative hold-up is surprising, given the large majority held by the GOP in both the legislative and executive branches.

Despite the perceived unrest among state Republicans, Corbett said the appointment was a matter of placing highly-qualified individuals in judicial seats.

“For as long as I’ve known Bill, it’s been his dream to be a judge,” Corbett said last week after announcing Ward’s nomination. “I’m happy to help make that dream happen, both for Bill and for the citizens who will benefit from his knowledge and integrity.”

Kevin Harley, Corbett’s spokesperson, said in an article published Thursday in the Harrisburg Patriot-News that the governor agreed to the terms set by Castille, but only for a year.

In the same article, Castille said Allegheny County President Judge Donna Jo McDaniel told him that the caseload has declined. Allegheny County has 43 judges with two vacancies.

Castille also said that each county judge costs the state $200,000, including salary and benefits in addition to staff needs and costs related to the judge’s office.

With five other open seats across the state, Castille said he feared that the state would fill the other seats since judicial appointments typically come in political packages, with Democratic and Republican judges.

These measures are often necessary, since appointments require two thirds majority approval in the senate.

“If those five vacancies are filled in this little political thing they are going to do … that will cost us $1 million,” Castille said.

Under the current senate makeup, even if all 29 Republicans approve of Ward’s nomination, they will still need four votes of approval from senate Democrats.

Harley emphasized that Corbett was aware of the financial situation, but said the governor has the power to appoint qualified candidates to judicial seats.

In addition to budgetary concerns, Corbett has been criticized by state Democrats who accuse the governor of engaging in cronyism.  Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) said Corbett’s appointment of Ward was inappropriate because of their relationship.

“If he wants to send Mr. Ward to Disneyland or wants to get him to meet Beyonce, I would have no problem with that as long as it didn’t involve state money,” Leach said.

“To me, the whole concept of justice is a very sacred concept and the process has to be above reproach.This is not about rewarding cronies.”

May 31st, 2012 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Harrisburg, Top Stories | 7 Comments

7 thoughts on “Corbett Criticized for Appointing Former Staffer to Judge”

  1. Armstrong Co Resident says:

    Corbett is part of the good ole boys from the western PA side of the GOP tracks. This hiring fits right in with US Senate hopeful Tom Smith’s getting his daughter a job in the Armstrong County Courthouse after being Commissioner Battaglias too contributor or the way Sen Don White or Rep Jeff Pyle will bend over backwards to perform the dirty deeds their wealthy contributors want them to do. Corbett laughs all the way to the bank at the expense of all of us!

  2. George W. says:

    The Governor appointing his Chief of Staff to a judgeship because “it will make all his wildest fantasies come true.” Are you kidding me? Corbett is a two-bit clown. What a gutless coward with no brain!

  3. JeffreyWigand says:

    Pennsylvania wouldn’t need so much education funding if obstructionists would get out of the way of charter and private schools that can, in many cases, do a better job for far less. What kind of education is it when we teach children that competition is a good thing in everything except their own education??

  4. Joe in Wynnewood says:

    The proper juxtaposition is the gutting of education funding vs. handing his buddy a $200k/year job and all the attending costs the state’s Chief Judge, a fellow Republican, says we can’t afford and don’t need. Corbett clearly doesn’t give a hoot about the state’s kids, but he’s loyal to his friends. That might make him a good teammate, but it makes him a lousy Governor.

  5. Really says:

    You teabag nuts need to get a life. Leave the governor alone.

  6. Please be honest says:

    In the Corbett admisistration if you can’t do your job we will give you a better one! I bet if legislature does hang the Christmas tree with pork, Governor Corbett will be there to plug it in! How can we forget the last Christmas Present from Corbett, a $20,000,000 Arlene Spector Library?

  7. Alan says:

    This is a little petty. Give the Governor this confirmation. He does deserve it as Governor.
    Of course, now the legislature might hang the Christmas tree with pork

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