Pratt Calls for Senate Action to Fill Court Vacancies

Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Mike Pratt has joined Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille’s request for the Pennsylvania Senate to act on Gov. Edward G. Rendell’s nominees to fill four appellate court vacancies.

Earlier this month, Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph B. Scarnati III and Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi rejected Rendell’s proposed interim appointees for one slot on the Supreme Court, one slot on the Commonwealth Court and two slots on the Superior Court because the candidates don’t reflect the state’s racial, geographical and gender diversity. The Republican leaders also rejected the nominees because they said Rendell did not heed their suggestions for those interim openings and the Senate’s advise and consent role in nominees.

In a letter sent Wednesday to the Republican leaders of the Senate, Pratt said: “The ability of Pennsylvania’s citizens to receive fair and effective justice in our Commonwealth, Superior and Supreme Courts is contingent upon filling these crucial posts. We ask that you end, with all expediency, this stalemate by voting to confirm the four respected jurists and attorneys who have been deemed qualified for interim court appointments by Governor Rendell.”

Pratt said in an interview that while diversity on the appellate bench is a goal of the 13,000 member bar association, that “this is a time we just need to move on and get these nominees their day in front of the judiciary committee and get a vote.”

Pratt said he has no questions about the competency or capabilities of the nominees, including former Commonwealth Court Judge and current Commonwealth Court Senior Judge James Gardner Colins for the Supreme Court opening created by former Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy’s resignation, former interim Justice and Superior Court Senior Judge James J. Fitzgerald III and past interim Superior Court Judge Robert C. Daniels for the Superior Court and Duquesne University law professor Kenneth E. Gormley for the vacant Commonwealth Court slot.

Castille has said in recent days that seeking diversity in interim appellate appointees is not the most important issue because leaving the openings unfilled means litigants and their lawyers face delays in the administration of justice and other jurists see an increase of their workloads.

The interim nominees will automatically become instituted in early June if the Senate fails to act by then.

-– Amaris Elliott-Engel, Staff Reporter

 

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