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Pa. Senate committee unanimously backs Stevens for state SC justice

By Jon Campisi | Jun 28, 2013

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Legal Newsline) -- Pennsylvania's Senate Judiciary Committee is backing Superior Court President Judge Correale F. Stevens as nominee to the state Supreme Court.

Legislative records show that the 14-member panel unanimously approved of Stevens' nomination by Gov. Tom Corbett to fill the seat on the high court left vacant by the resignation of former Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, who left the bench after being convicted on campaign-related corruption charges.

Not one nay vote was cast during the committee's June 27 meeting, records show.

The Judiciary Committee is chaired by Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf, a Montgomery County Republican. Its vice chair is Sen. John Rafferty, a fellow Republican from the suburban Philadelphia county.

If Stevens is confirmed by the entire Senate, he could temporarily serve on the Supreme Court until January 2016, since the election to fill the vacancy permanently would occur in November 2015.

Stevens, a graduate of the Dickinson School of Law at Pennsylvania State University, has been a Superior Court judge since his election to the appellate body in 1997.

He was chosen by his fellow judges to serve as president judge in 2011.

Stevens, who has also served as a judge on the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas, as the district attorney of Luzerne County, as a state representative, and as the solicitor for both the City of Hazelton and the Hazelton Authority, said in a statement issued earlier this month following Corbett's nomination that he would be thrilled to be able to serve on 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," he said at the time.

Stevens said he has served on the Superior Court, one of two intermediate appellate courts, with four of the six current Supreme Court justices, and considers all of the justices to be personal friends.

"If confirmed, the transition between courts should go well," he said in his prior statement.

Court reformers and others have praised Stevens for his dedication to making the courts more public-friendly; he was responsible for establishing a public information link on the Superior Court's website and he has held court sessions in communities, at law schools and high school campuses across the commonwealth in an effort to educate the citizenry on the inner workings of the judicial system.

During the Judiciary Committee hearing, Stevens said that if confirmed by the Senate to the vacant seat, he would also take a more active role as a Supreme Court justice, according to a report in The Legal Intelligencer.

"Please note now, before you vote, that I do not intend to be a seat-warmer on the Supreme Court," Stevens told the panel, according to the Intelligencer. "It is not in my nature to sit idly by so that someday I can say I was on the Supreme Court."

It was not immediately clear when a full Senate vote on Stevens' nomination would take place, but a staffer in Greenleaf's office said the vote could come any day now, even as early as Friday.

The legislature will soon be wrapping up its session prior to summer break.

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