HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Philadelphia Judge Kevin Dougherty became the newest member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday after Chief Justice Thomas Saylor swore him in.
Dougherty was the top vote-getter in the November election, which is bringing three new Democrats to the seven-seat court this week. Here’s a look at a changing Supreme Court as its newest justice takes the oath of office:
Later this week the other two new justices, David Wecht and Christine Donohue, will be sworn in during separate ceremonies in Pittsburgh. Wecht and Donohue both served most recently on the state Superior Court, an intermediate appeals court.
The new members will leave the court, which ended the year with a 3-2 Republican majority, with five Democrats, one Republican on active duty and one Republican under paid suspension.
Justice Michael Eakin, a Republican former district attorney in central Pennsylvania, is currently awaiting trial on ethics charges by the Court of Judicial Discipline. The veteran jurist is accused of violating rules for judges’ behavior by his participation in the exchange of bawdy, denigrating and otherwise offensive emails in a scandal that has led dozens of people in the courts and other areas of government to resign, be fired or face less severe discipline.
Two other justices have left the high court under a cloud in recent years.
In 2013, Justice Joan Orie Melvin, a Republican, quit the bench after being convicted of public corruption for using her state-paid staff to perform political campaign work.
Justice Seamus McCaffery, a Democrat, abruptly retired in October 2014, after the other justices suspended him for involvement in the email scandal.
Justices are elected for 10-year terms, after which they must survive up-or-down “retention” votes every decade, with no opponent on the ballot.
ABOUT THE NEW JUSTICE:
Dougherty was first appointed to the bench in Philadelphia by Republican Gov. Tom Ridge in 2001. He has spent much of his judicial career in the family division. He raised the most money in last year’s high court campaign, thanks to strong support from unions.
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