Gormley nominated to fill Pa. Supreme Court vacancy

Photo by Claire Murray | Photo Editor. Law school dean Ken Gormley (left) shakes the hand of Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís (right) after giving him an honorary degree Sept. 27.

Photo by Claire Murray | Photo Editor. Law school dean Ken Gormley (left) shakes the hand of Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís (right) after giving him an honorary degree Sept. 27.

By Julian Routh | News Editor

Duquesne law school dean Ken Gormley was nominated Wednesday by Gov. Tom Wolf to temporarily fill one of the two vacant seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Gormley, 59, of Forest Hills, will serve on the bench until January 2016 if two-thirds of the state Senate approves his appointment. He was selected as the governor’s Democratic nominee, while Centre County Judge Thomas Kistler received the Republican nod.

In a written statement, Gormley said he is “deeply honored” to receive the nomination because of the many years he has spent admiring the court.

“Throughout my life, I have believed that dedicating a portion of one’s career to public service is an essential piece of serving in the legal profession,” Gormley said. “I therefore consider it one of the greatest privileges possible, to be nominated for this position of public trust at the highest level of our legal system.”

There are two open seats on the seven-member court because of Chief Justice Ronald Castille’s retirement in December and Justice Seamus McCaffery’s retirement in October. McCaffery retired amid a scandal involving pornographic emails.

Gormley’s expertise in constitutional law makes him an “extremely qualified and distinguished” candidate to fill one of those vacancies, Wolf said.

“A collaborative process involving leaders from the Senate led to the selection of two nominees who I believe will execute their duties with the highest standard of ethics and judicial temperament,” Wolf said in a written statement.

Gormley, who has worked at Duquesne since 1994, took over as law school dean in March 2010. Since then, he has been an “exceptional leader,” Duquesne President Charles Dougherty said in a written statement.

“A successful and respected lawyer, teacher and scholar, Ken is a man of great intellect, character and integrity,” Dougherty said. “Ken’s reputation for fairness and his balanced approach with complex issues have served him well throughout his career and will certainly prove to be valuable as a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice.”

Gormley, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard Law School, previously served as president of the Allegheny County Bar Association, the first academic to hold the position in the organization’s 137-year history. He was also the mayor of Forest Hills from 1998 to 2001.

He has authored “The Pennsylvania Constitution: A Treatise on Rights and Liberties” and The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr, which appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list.

At Duquesne, Gormley is well respected by his students and colleagues. Theo Collins, a third-year law student, said Gormley is going to have an opportunity to make a strong impact on the bench.

“The [law] alumni that I’ve spoken to, they’re all very excited,” Collins said. “[Gormley] is definitely very deserving of this. He’s more than qualified for the appointment.”

Duquesne spokeswoman Bridget Fare said it was too early to say what will happen with the law school’s leadership if Gormley is confirmed.

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