State Supreme Court

The field of candidates for three open seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is now set.

Republicans on Tuesday chose Superior Court Judge Judy Olson, Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey and Adams County Judge Mike George as their candidates. Democrats nominated Philadelphia Judge Kevin Dougherty, and Superior Court judges David Wecht and Christine Donohue.

Philadelphia Judge Alice Beck Dubow was dubbed the Democratic nominee for a seat on the state Superior Court. She defeated Allegheny County Judge Robert Colville.

Contradictory Court Rulings on Expert Witnesses

Jun 18, 2014
Lucy Skywalker / Wikipedia Commons

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court could not make up its mind on the usage of expert testimony in criminal cases, handing down two contradictory decisions recently.

In the first case, on eyewitness testimony, a majority changed the longstanding rule that no experts on the problems with eyewitness testimony were allowed; from this point forward, the Supreme Court ruled, trial courts in PA may permit experts.

But in the other case, the court ruled the exact opposite, stating expert testimony can create a false confession.

Pitt Law Professor David Harris believes he can help clarify the cases.

Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin has been sentenced to three years house arrest and two years of probation for misusing her Superior Court staff to aid in her campaign efforts.
 
Melvin, 57, was found guilty of using the staff in her failed campaign in 2003 and then again during her successful campaign in 2009.
 
Allegheny County Judge Lester Nauhaus said he does not believe Melvin is an evil person, but he said her "arrogance is stunning."

Gov. Tom Corbett isn’t giving any indication of what kind of influence the Senate Democrats may have over who he’ll nominate to fill an upcoming vacancy on the state Supreme Court.

The minority caucus will be crucial, since confirmation requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate.   

Last week, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent Corbett a list of five names – all Republican judges – from which to choose to guarantee a swift confirmation process.

One legal observer says the state Supreme Court is all talk, no action when it comes to making its own pick to replace the suspended justice who plans to resign in May.

The interim judge will fill the seat of suspended Justice Joan Orie Melvin, who’s resigning in May as she awaits sentencing for campaign corruption.

The high court’s chief justice suggests his colleagues might make their own choice for a replacement, preempting an appointment by the governor to fill the vacancy.

The state Supreme Court’s chief justice is emphasizing how much the high court needs a seventh member – and soon.  

Ron Castille says now that suspended Justice Joan Orie Melvin plans to resign in May, the slot should be filled.

Gov. Tom Corbett says he plans to nominate someone for the seat.

But Castille says the court might be able to appoint an interim justice more quickly since it wouldn’t need the state Senate to confirm its selection with a two-thirds majority vote.