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Nominee process frustrates Rendell

| Friday, April 9, 2004, 12:00 p.m.

HARRISBURG -- Gov. Ed Rendell on Thursday expressed frustration with the Republican-controlled Senate's inaction on two of his nominees for judge on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

"The pace has been unbelievably slow," said Rendell, a Democrat. The governor said he is "enormously frustrated" by the delay and with the pace of legislation in general at the state Capitol.

Edward Borkowski, the first assistant district attorney in Allegheny County, was nominated by Rendell in May to replace Common Pleas Judge Joseph Jaffe, who resigned last April after pleading guilty to federal charges of extorting money from a defense lawyer.

Borkowski, of Lawrenceville, has headed the homicide division of the District Attorney's office for six years.

City Councilman Alan Hertzberg, of Crafton Heights, was nominated in January. He would fill the seat vacated when former Common Pleas Judge Max Baer was elected to the Supreme Court. Hertzberg has been a city councilman since 1994.

Jaffe and Baer both were assigned to the civil division. Common Pleas President Judge Joseph James has said he wants to put one new judge into criminal court and the other into family court to address heavy caseloads.

Judicial nominees frequently win approval as part of a political package -- a deal -- and the nominations of Borkowski and Hertzberg are no different.

"When you have a Senate of the opposing party, you have to negotiate all appointments, including judicial appointments," said G. Terry Madonna, a Harrisburg political analyst.

"Senate Republicans are in the driver's seat on the confirmations and they deal from a position of strength," he said.

Only after considerable "horse-trading and jawboning" are deals constructed on gubernatorial appointments, including judgeships, Madonna said.

There soon will be a third vacancy on the Court of Common Pleas: Judge Alan S. Penkower has said he intends to retire later this year.

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