By Amaris Elliott-Engel
Of the Legal Staff
Suspended Justice Joan Orie Melvin's stint on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is over today.
In March, Orie Melvin, who was convicted of political corruption earlier this year, resigned from the high court. The resignation is effective today. Orie Melvin's sentencing is scheduled in Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas for May 7. The Legal is set to cover the sentencing.
Governor Tom Corbett now has 90 days to nominate a lawyer or judge to serve on the high court until Orie Melvin's seat can be placed on the ballot for the 2015 election. Two-thirds of the state Senate must vote in favor of the interim justice. Republicans control the upper house but do not have enough party members to muster two-thirds on their own. The Senate Democratic leadership has stated that a more moderate nominee from Corbett is necessary in order to garner their party support.
Members of the Supreme Court have differed on whether the court would appoint an interim justice on its own. Justice J. Michael Eakin has commented that while he thinks the high court has the power to appoint an interim justice, he does not think the court will do it out of respect for the separation of powers between the branches of government. In contrast, Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille has said the court would consider appointing a senior judge.
What all agree on is that having three-three splits from a six-member court on important legal issues is a bad thing.
Amaris Elliott-Engel can be contacted at 215-557-2354 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisTLI.