By Gina Passarella
Of the Legal Staff
Governor Tom Corbett said today he would nominate his current chief of staff, William F. Ward, to a vacant seat on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
Corbett simultaneously announced the state’s general counsel, Stephen Aichele, would succeed Ward as Corbett’s chief of staff, effective Tuesday, May 29. Aichele left his role as chairman of Saul Ewing to take the position of general counsel at the start of Corbett’s administration.
Pending confirmation by the state Senate, Ward will serve as a special adviser to Corbett.
Ward, 60, of Mt. Lebanon, Allegheny County, will depart his present post after serving 16 months as the governor’s top aide.
“For as long as I’ve known Bill, it’s been his dream to be a judge,” Corbett said in a statement. “I’m happy to help make that dream happen, both for Bill and for the citizens who will benefit from his knowledge and integrity.”
Corbett described Ward as “a trusted friend and adviser for more than 30 years.”
“My current role in government has been both professionally challenging and personally rewarding,” Ward said in a statement. “A position serving on the bench in Allegheny County will allow me to be reunited with my family in Pittsburgh while continuing to serve the Commonwealth.”
Ward is a former federal and state prosecutor who served as first deputy to Corbett when he was state attorney general in the mid-1990s. He was considered for judicial vacancies before, both in Allegheny County and for a position as U.S. magistrate judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania, according to a press release issued by Corbett’s office.
Ward began his legal career as a law clerk to U.S. District Judge Louis C. Bechtle of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Two years later, then-Attorney General Griffin Bell appointed him assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. He later was promoted to chief of the office’s economic crimes section.
In 1996, Corbett appointed Ward to be first deputy attorney general. The following year, Governor Tom Ridge named Ward as chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, a cabinet-level position. He resumed his legal career in Pittsburgh in 2003 until Corbett appointed him to serve as chief of staff.
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said the governor has not yet determined who the new general counsel will be to replace Aichele. He said the governor will probably announce an acting general counsel and then make a determination later on an official replacement.