In catbird seat on Melvin's successor
By Joseph Sabino Mistick
Published: Saturday, April 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Jay Costa has weathered some tough political storms as minority leader of the state Senate, but there is a break in the clouds. When Democrats picked up three Senate seats in the last election, Costa found himself in the catbird seat.
The governor will nominate a state Supreme Court justice to replace Joan Orie Melvin, but the Senate must confirm by a two-thirds vote. Costa, with 23 Democrats compared with 27 Republicans, has enough of a buffer to secure a proverbial seat at the table.
This at least means Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's nominee is not likely to be a strident partisan or from his party's far right wing. And Costa has a few nominees in mind that should be acceptable to Corbett and 34 Senate Democrats and Republicans, the threshold for confirmation.
Former federal prosecutor Steve Chanenson, a Villanova law professor, fits the bill. He chairs the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing and directs the Matthew J. Ryan Law & Public Policy Forum. A Democrat, he was appointed to the commission by three successive governors, including Republicans Corbett and Mark Schweiker.
Renee Caldwell Hughes, a former Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge who tried major-crime cases, served on the commission with Chanenson and Costa. She is CEO of the American Red Cross in Southeastern Pennsylvania and would be the high court's only black justice.
Jeffrey Manning, administrative judge of the criminal division in Allegheny County, has a reputation for toughness and fairness. He and Corbett became friends while trying major cases together as young prosecutors, and he remains a trusted Corbett confidant. He does not shy away from tough decisions and would have no learning curve.
Civil litigator and appellate lawyer Mark Aronchick, past Philadelphia Bar Association chancellor, was city solicitor for Mayor William J. Green. An American College of Trial Lawyers fellow, he has served on the civil rules committee of the state Supreme Court.
Barring Costa's suggestions, Linda Kelly, having recently won Senate confirmation to replace Corbett as attorney general, is a Republican who may be acceptable to Senate Democrats. She is credited with moving the Sandusky prosecution forward to conviction and has earned respect as a state and federal prosecutor. A Corbett friend since their days with the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, she is a Costa constituent.
As the 2014 gubernatorial election approaches, any Supreme Court appointment will be subject to never-ending political analysis. Also in this mix are upcoming PUC, LCB and Turnpike Commission vacancies. While governors can usually pick off a couple of opposition-party votes for confirmation, Costa's new margin seems to put that out of reach.
In politics, necessity is often the mother of compromise.
Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (SabinoMistick@aol.com).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kovacevic: Big Ben’s contract clock ticking
- Talented center Sutter is proving to be ‘pretty important’ for Penguins
- Western Pennsylvania engineer aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight
- Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg to be featured in TV series
- Penguins notebook: Beau Bennett returns to practice
- Powerful quake shakes N. California; no injuries
- Pitt looking to enhance profile at ACC tourney
- Analysis: Kesler still on Pens’ radar as Shero aims to bring back ‘Big 3’
- ‘Un-American’? That’s Harry Reid, the Senate’s lowly smear artist
- Parking tickets in Downtown Pittsburgh spark outrage
- Pirates reserve outfielder Dickerson is also at home on soccer pitch