Philly judge among Rendell's court picks

June 20, 2008 11:08:31 AM PDT
Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell on Friday nominated three veteran judges and a former top aide to Gov. Tom Ridge in a deal with Republican senators to finally fill temporary vacancies on Pennsylvania's appellate courts. Rendell's pick to fill an opening on the state Supreme Court is Jane Cutler Greenspan, a 20-year Philadelphia common pleas court judge.

Greenspan, a Democrat, would become the second woman on the high court panel, and would also tip the balance of justices to four Democrats and three Republicans. Greenspan would succeed Ralph J. Cappy, the chief justice who stepped down in January.

Rendell also nominated Johnny J. Butler, a former Labor and Industry secretary under Ridge's Republican administration, and the president judges of McKean and Northampton counties to serve 18 months on state appellate courts.

All four nominees, if confirmed by the Senate, would succeed judges who left before their terms were complete. The replacements are intended to serve until 2010, when permanent successors elected in 2009 are sworn in for 10-year terms.

The posts have remained open since January amid a dispute between Rendell and Senate Republicans over who should fill them. Republicans, who control the Senate, rejected an earlier group of nominees, complaining that Rendell ignored their wishes when picking his first slate and that his choices lacked racial, gender and geographic diversity.

The four nominees are split between the parties: The Rendell administration picked two Democrats, while the Senate GOP picked two Republicans.

Republican John M. Cleland, the president judge of McKean County, and Democrat Robert A. Freedberg, the president judge of Northampton County, would serve on Superior Court. Those vacancies were created by the election of two former judges on that court - Seamus McCaffery and Debra Todd - to the Supreme Court in November.

Butler, a Republican lawyer in private practice in Philadelphia, would succeed James Gardner Colins on Commonwealth Court. Colins resigned in January.