HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett has chosen state appeals court Judge Correale Stevens to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court.
Stevens of Sugarloaf Township has served as president judge of the state Superior Court since 2011 and has been a member of that court since 1998.
“I thank Governor Tom Corbett for nominating me to the Pennsylvania Supreme 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 in a prepared statement.
In addition to Stevens’ nomination, Corbett also announced that he would nominate three others to be commissioners of state agencies, including former U.S. Congressman Tim Holden to the Liquor Control Board, Sean Logan to the Turnpike Commission and Gladys M. Brown to the Public Utility Commission.
“These four individuals reflect the qualities and qualifications that transcend political labels and uniquely suit each one for the positions of public trust for which they have been selected,” Corbett said in a press release.
Corbett will submit the nominations to the state Senate today.
A familiar face in state politics and government, Stevens, 66, has had a long and distinguished career in public service.
A Hazle Township native, Stevens graduated from Penn State and from Dickinson School of Law, engaged in private law practice and served as solicitor for the city of Hazleton and for the Hazleton City Authority before his election to the state House of Representatives in 1980. He was re-elected to three more consecutive terms.
After serving four years as Luzerne County district attorney, Stevens won both parties’ nominations to the county Court of Common Pleas in 1991. He was elected to the state Superior Court in 1997 and won a retention vote by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in 2007.
Stevens said in a phone interview that he would continue in his duties as president judge until he hears otherwise from the Senate, but he planned to call Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today to ask when the next committee meeting was scheduled because he wants to address the committee.
As a former House member, Stevens said he understands, appreciates and has “great respect” for the legislative process, and he declined to discuss the issues he wants to present to the committee until the public hearing.
A majority vote by the committee is needed to send Stevens’ nomination to the Senate floor for a vote. He needs approval of two-thirds of the Senate to take a seat on the bench.
Corbett’s decision comes more than a month after the opening was created due to the resignation of Joan Orie Melvin. Melvin was convicted in February of charges related to using public employees to help conduct her political campaigns. She has maintained her innocence and is pursuing appeals.
Melvin and Stevens are both Republicans, so, if he is confirmed, the court will return to a four-to-three Republican majority. A sign that he is likely to be confirmed by the Senate is that his name was included in April on a list of acceptable nominees released publicly by Sen. Daylin Leach, the Democratic minority chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The term Stevens would fill expires Jan. 1, 2016. He said it’s “hard to say” whether he would seek election to the seat. “I may have the option of coming back to the Superior Court as a senior judge,” he said. “But that’s far off right now. I have a lot of duties to clean up on Superior Court if the Senate confirms me. I haven’t really thought beyond that.”
Stevens said staying current with cases, reaching out with community court sessions and continuing legal seminars to assist lawyers — as well as making judges’ decisions available to the public via the Internet — have been priorities for him as president judge.
His “outstanding, hard-working colleagues” on the Superior Court make it much easier for him to meet his responsibilities as president judge, he said. And, should he be confirmed to the Supreme Court, he expects the transition would go well, given that he has served on the Superior Court with four of the six current Supreme Court Justices and considers all six “personal friends.”
As president judge, Stevens has held court sessions in Pennsylvania communities and on law school and high school campuses. He has encouraged public understanding of the judicial system and established a public information link on the Superior Court website.
Stevens teaches criminal justice and American government at Penn State-Hazleton and regularly participates in continuing legal education programs for the state and local bar associations as well as for community groups. Recently he has participated in a legal education series on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.