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Former Commonwealth Court Judge James Gardner Colins will likely face a difficult confirmation following his nomination to an interim seat on the state Supreme Court, Senate Republican leaders reportedly warned Gov. Edward G. Rendell before he announced the nomination yesterday. If he is confirmed, Colins, who served 24 years on the Commonwealth Court including two terms as its president judge, would serve nearly two years on the high court in the seat vacated by former Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy earlier this month. Also yesterday, Rendell named former interim Superior Court Judge Robert C. Daniels and former interim Supreme Court Justice James J. Fitzgerald as nominees to vacancies on the Superior Court created by the election of Justices Debra Todd and Seamus P. McCaffery to the Supreme Court. He named Duquesne University law professor Kenneth E. Gormley the nominee for the vacancy on the Commonwealth Court created by Colins’ resignation. “I am confident that the four nominees I have selected following thorough review and careful consideration will serve the commonwealth with honor and distinction,” Rendell said, according to a statement. “Based on their strong records and qualifications, I have tremendous confidence in their ability to serve as top-notch jurists.” Senate Democrats said Colins’ experience as a jurist and administrator makes him a sound choice for the Supreme Court vacancy and expressed confidence they can drum up support to get the two-thirds majority vote needed for confirmation. “The people expect us to put politics aside and confirm this nominee as soon as possible,” said Senate Minority Whip Michael A. O’Pake of Berks County. “I think the governor made the right choice.” Steve MacNett, general counsel for the Senate Republicans, said Monday that opposition to Colins’ appointment centers on his outspokenness on issues including the controversial 2005 judicial pay raise and judicial independence. “He told the world in October, after the vacancy on the Supreme Court had been created, that he was interested in making more money and doing other things where he was able to speak out on issues of judicial independence,” MacNett said. MacNett said concerns about Colins’ suitability for the post include a belief that he would be forced to recuse himself from the consideration of a substantial number of cases appealed from the Commonwealth Court. Because the Commonwealth Court allows judges to participate in the decision of a case even if he or she is not a member of the panel, “virtually the entire product of the Commonwealth Court that comes up on appeal would be off limits,” MacNett said. Robert L. Byer, firmwide chairman of appellate litigation for Duane Morris and a former Commonwealth Court judge, said he doesn’t believe Colins’ need to recuse himself would be a major impediment to his service on the court. “His appointment is going to last two years, so assuming his appointment is confirmed, there would not be an ongoing issue,” Byer said. He noted that the same issue exists for Todd and McCaffery, who will be required to recuse themselves from cases appealed from the Superior Court. Steven L. Chanenson, associate professor of law at Villanova University School of Law, said the recusal issue is fairly common, noting that it has been an issue in both of President Bush’s appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court. “While it’s not irrelevant, it doesn’t seem like a deal breaker to me if this is the person the governor feels is best for the job,” Chanenson said. Sen. Jane Orie, R-Allegheny, said her opposition to Colins’ nomination stems more from the manner in which it was made than Colins’ temperament or limitations. “Historically, in the Senate, we have had a process that is negotiated with the governor,” Orie said. “That’s how these recommendations have been made.” Orie said she was part of a bipartisan effort to put forth a candidate who would preserve the partisan and geographic balance of the Supreme Court. Working with Sen. Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, Orie advocated Gormley for the Supreme Court nomination. Like Cappy, Gormley is both an Allegheny County resident and a Democrat. “I’m concerned that the process wasn’t used in this case, in any of these appointments,” Orie said. “I don’t think that it’s just a Republican issue.” Although Gormley had strong support in the western part of the state, Colins has the support of the entire Democratic caucus, said Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, D-Philadelphia. “I think it was clear from the beginning that he was going to be the nominee,” Fumo said. Fumo said while he doesn’t know specifically where the governor’s alliances lie, he believes there will be sufficient support for Colins’ confirmation from the Republican caucus. “I’m sure [Rendell] didn’t want to go on a kamikaze mission. I’m sure that he feels there is going to be enough there,” Fumo said. Colins enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1968 and was honorably discharged in 1983 as a captain. His first job out of law school was as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia from 1971 to 1975 alongside Rendell. He then went into private practice for five years at Glickman Dranoff & Colins. He was appointed to the Philadelphia Municipal Court in 1980 by then-Gov. Richard Thornburgh. In November 1983, Colins was elected to the Commonwealth Court. He served two nonconsecutive terms as president judge of the court, with the latest term lasting from 2002 to 2007. He also served from September 1994 to September 1999. Prior to his initial confirmation to the Superior Court in March 2007, Daniels was special counsel with Sprague & Sprague. He had been with that firm since November 2005. The former Philadelphia Bar Association chancellor was the founder of Daniels Saltz Mongeluzzi & Barrett � now Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky. He left that firm in 1998 after the death of his wife with the expectation of retiring. Fitzgerald was appointed in 2007 to a temporary, one-year appointment to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court following Justice Sandra Schultz Newman’s resignation in 2006. His career as a jurist began when a vacancy occurred in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. After winning election to a 10-year term in 1989, Fitzgerald was retained in 1999 and, in 2002, was appointed administrative judge in the trial division by the state Supreme Court. Fitzgerald earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1962 from the University of Pennsylvania. He then obtained his J.D. degree from the Villanova University School of Law. He served for 12 years in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. He has served as chief counsel to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, worked in private law practice and ran the government affairs division for the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. Gormley joined the Duquesne Law faculty in 1994 after serving as a special clerk to Cappy. He previously served as executive director of the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission, worked in private practice and clerked for U.S. District Judge Donald E. Ziegler. In July 2007, he assumed the position of associate vice president for interdisciplinary scholarship and special projects. At the same time, Gormley became the first president from academia to head the 136-year-old Allegheny County Bar Association. He is currently of counsel with Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis.

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