Governor Tom Corbett has agreed to nominate state Superior Court President Judge Correale F. Stevens to the vacancy left on the state Supreme Court by former Justice Joan Orie Melvin.

The governor’s office announced in a release Thursday that Corbett is poised to submit the nomination to the state Senate today. In a statement released Thursday evening, Stevens thanked Corbett for naming him to the high court.

“It would become an exciting opportunity for me to continue my judicial career in that capacity, if confirmed by the Pennsylvania Senate,” Stevens said. “Until I hear otherwise from the Senate, I will continue to perform my duties as president judge of the Superior Court.”

Hours before the nomination was announced, state Senator Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, minority chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told The Legal on Thursday that the Senate would confirm Stevens. “It’s something we, as Democrats, have been supportive of,” Leach said, adding, “We will confirm Corry Stevens and I would thank the governor for doing the right thing.” Stevens’ name recently appeared on a list that Leach sent Corbett of Republican judges that he developed after canvassing people on judges they would feel comfortable arguing cases in front of. Stevens said in the press release that he expects a smooth transition, if confirmed, to the high court.

“Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to serve on the Superior Court with four of the six current Supreme Court justices and consider all six personal friends, and if confirmed, the transition between courts should go well,” he said. “As a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, I understand, appreciate and have great respect for the legislative process, and will reserve further comment until I meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

The Supreme Court has been operating with six justices since Orie Melvin was suspended in May 2012 in the wake of political corruption charges. Orie Melvin was found guilty February 21 of three third-degree felonies of diversion of services, one third-degree felony count of criminal conspiracy to commit diversion of services, one second-degree misdemeanor of misapplication of entrusted property, and one second-degree misdemeanor of criminal conspiracy to commit tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

Orie Melvin submitted her resignation from the court in March and it became effective May 1. Corbett had 90 days starting from Orie Melvin’s resignation to submit a nominee for confirmation by two-thirds of the state Senate. The nominee will serve until January 5, 2016, and a new justice would be elected in November 2015.

Stevens, a Republican, was elected to the Superior Court in November 1997 and won retention in November 2007. He has been president judge since 2011 and his term on the Superior Court is set to end in December 2017.

Prior to his election to the Superior Court, Stevens was a judge on the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas. Before that, he was district attorney of Luzerne County. Stevens told The Legal on Tuesday that he met with Corbett earlier this month at the governor’s request to discuss the possibility of his nomination.

“He just wanted to know if I was interested and I said I could be interested, yes,” Stevens said.

Stevens also made it clear that he did not apply for the job. One attorney and court watcher said the only concern about putting Stevens on the Supreme Court is the number of cases in which he may potentially be forced to recuse himself, having previously ruled on them at the Superior Court level.

 

Zack Needles can be contacted at 215-557-2493 or zneedles@alm.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZNeedlesTLI.