She was found guilty of using taxpayer-funded resources for her campaign. Charges include theft, conspiracy and misappropriation of state services. Sentencing is scheduled for May 2013.
All in the Family
Orie has been suspended without pay from the court since August. Orie’s sister and aide, Janine Orie, also was convicted of misusing state-paid staffers to do campaign work. They were both found guilty of theft of services, conspiracy and misappropriation of state property. Melvin was acquitted of official oppression.
A third sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie, R-Allegheny, is serving 2 1/2 to 10 years in prison after a separate conviction on similar charges related to her own political campaigns.
Resignation – Appointment
Orie’s resignation will be effective May 1. Corbett has 90 days from May 1 to submit a nominee to fill the vacancy. The seat can be filled if Corbett makes an interim appointment confirmed by two-thirds of the state Senate. That would require all Senate Republicans and eight Democrats to get behind Corbett’s pick, who would serve until an elected judge takes office in 2016.
Alternatively, the Supreme Court could make an appointment that doesn’t require confirmation, but, rather, a majority vote.
While Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin said he thinks the high court would have the power to appoint an interim justice to fill the spot of suspended Justice Joan Orie Melvin, he does not think the court will do it as a “separation of powers issue.”
Justice Eakin, who spoke last week at a meeting of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s appellate courts committee, said the court does not want to get into the position of pre-empting Gov. Tom Corbett from appointing a justice with confirmation by the state Senate.
Meanwhile – Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille hinted that his court might take matters into its own hands by naming a semiretired senior judge to fill the post until a new justice is elected in 2015.
(Emphasis added) Castille, a Republican, noted that anyone Corbett nominated would need a two-thirds vote of the state Senate for confirmation – so the Republican governor would have to reach across the aisle.
“The Democrats might want something for their support,” Castille told reporters here after a lunchtime speech. “That is typical of politics.”
Castille said he was concerned about getting the court back to its full compliment. “A 3-3 decision by our court is kind of meaningless,” he said. Such outcomes “are bad for us, they are bad for everybody.”
There is precedent for the justices’ having a senior judge fill in temporarily – that is what happened before Justice Rolf Larsen’s 1994 impeachment. But Bruce Ledewitz, a law professor at Duquesne University who has studied the high court, said there should be no confusion: The state constitution gives the governor the authority to fill the vacancy.
Ledewitz also said nothing prevented Corbett from acting swiftly to name an interim justice who agreed not to seek a full 10-year term in 2015.
“There is a certain kind of person who can fit the bill,” said Ledewitz, “because a two-thirds vote in the Senate is a very high hurdle. . . . And that means it’s got to be someone who can’t run, somebody older who will run into mandatory retirement, somebody who is respected, and somebody who is not controversial. The kind of consensus required by the process doesn’t have to take a long time.”
Governor Corbett says he’ll nominate an interim justice as soon as practical. If confirmed by the Senate, that person would serve until voters elect a new justice in 2015 to a full 10-year term.
KRANCER – Doubt it
With the unexpected resignation of the soon to be former SEP Secretary, Michael Krancer, speculation that he will be appointed to fill Orie’s seat is running high.
Exactly why Krancer resigned is still a puzzle. He did state he wants to spend more time with his family, but we here this “reason” more often than not when a member of the government is under scrutiny. It’s not unlike the “dog ate my homework” standard excuse.
I seriously doubt Krancer resigned in expectation of a Supreme Court appointment for a couple of reasons.
The timing of the resignation doesn’t make sense. Why would he resign, go back to an old job only to resign from that job to take a government appointment? It makes more sense to remain in the government job and resign to take a new government job.
Traditionally, those who are appointed to fill court vacancies do so with the agreement they will be unable to run for that position in the next election. This would mean, (if tradition holds), Krancer would NOT be able to run in 2016 for PA Supreme Court Justice.
Personal opinion, Krancer resigned to lay low for the next 2-3 years, count on the short memories of voters and will run for PA Supreme Court in 2016.
There has been no speculation who Corbett will officially nominate to replace Krancer. E. Christopher Abruzzo is currently filling the seat.
The PA Supreme Court has been making a habit of putting cases that were initially tied 3-3 on the justices’ business agenda to see if any of the justices would willing to change their vote or to refine the issues in the case to get another member of the court to join the majority.
When the justices met last week in Philadelphia to discuss their business agenda, the court had five cases that were tied 3-3 preliminarily but three of those were resolved after justices changed their initial position. The Frack-Anywhere Zoning was NOT one of those resolved.
Many of us are focused on the Frack-Anywhere Zoning and are in a dither regarding who Corbett will appoint, with many biting finger nails that it will be Krancer and thus Frack-Anywhere will officially become the law of the land.
Assume for a moment, in the extremely unlikelihood of a Krancer appointment to PA Supreme Court and how this impacts Frack-Anywhere Zoning.
RELATED: Act 13 – Krancer and the Frack Anywhere Zoning
According to CHAPTER 33. CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT | Subchapter A. Canons: Krancer would be expected to disqualify himself from the case because:
a) He would be a former employee of a government agency.
“…judges formerly employed by a governmental agency, however, should disqualify themselves in a proceeding if their impartiality might reasonably be questioned because of such association.”
b) He is named in the Frack-Anywhere Zoning case as a defendant.
“…is a party to the proceeding, or an officer, director, or trustee of a party…”
In other words, Krancer would not be a tie-breaker for the Frack-Anywhere Zoning.
Two names already being mentioned as possible appointees to the PA Supreme Court vacancy included Stephen Aichele, who is Corbett’s chief of staff; and Philadelphia lawyer William R. Sasso.
Breaking the Ties
Whenever a new justice is appointed – and approved by 2/3 of PA Senate – the pressure to make decisions on currently tied cases will increase.
As previously mentioned, PA Supreme Court could opt to continue the ties, in hopes one of the remaining 6 “might” change their mind.
Arguments will be made by involved parties about “needing their day in court”, this means a rehearing of oral arguments before a fully-seated court.
In addition to the Frack-Anywhere zoning, the GOP-led legislative reapportionment, and the controversial voter-identification law that Corbett signed in 2012 remain in limbo.
Timing is Everything
Corbett will be up for re-election in 2014. With a current approval rating between 26-30% as of the beginning of February, Corbett’s numbers are in the dumpster.
A decision before campaign season officially begins by the PA Supreme Court on the Voter ID and Legislative reapportionment could skew the election in Corbett’s favor.
The Frack-Anywhere Zoning is also of importance. Corbett and other legislators depend on contributions from the Natural Gas industry to fund a great portion of their campaigns. A decision to make Frack-Anywhere Zoning as the law of the land would earn the Natural Gas industry’s generous gratitude.
Bookmark MarcellusMoney.org, and watch the gasser money flow.
© 2013 by Dory Hippauf