WILKES-BARRE — Fifteen years ago, Correale F. Stevens was sworn in as a state Superior Court judge in a low-key ceremony at the Hazle Township Municipal Building.
There may even have been a game of bingo after the ceremony that January day in 1998, “and that was it,” he recalled.
Stevens’ elevation to Pennsylvania’s highest court, by contrast, will be marked next Tuesday with a somewhat more formal gathering at the Luzerne County Courthouse that is expected to draw elected officials and a cadre of judges.
“There might even be a surprise visit by a statewide officeholder or two,” Stevens quipped.
The 66-year-old Republican from Sugarloaf Township was nominated last month by Gov. Tom Corbett to fill a state Supreme Court seat vacated by Joan Orie Melvin, who resigned May 1 after her conviction on charges she used government employees to help her political campaigns. Melvin is appealing her convictions.
Stevens was confirmed for the post June 30 by a 50-0 state Senate vote. His appointment is to fill a term that expires Jan. 1, 2016.
“Never in a million years,” Stevens said when asked if he ever envisioned himself on the high court, a seven-member panel that traces its origins back at least as far as 1722, during the colonial era. It is the oldest appellate court in the nation, according to the Supreme Court website.
“It’s been a wild ride, and I’m loving every minute of it,” Stevens said.
His 4 p.m. “robing ceremony,” with Chief Justice Ronald D. Castile presiding,will include remarks from individuals who now hold offices that Stevens once occupied: state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township; Luzerne County District Attorney Stephanie Salavantis; county President Judge Tom Burke and Superior Court Judge Kate Ford Elliott. Superior Court Judge Jack Panella will serve as master of ceremonies.
The judge’s 22-year-old daughter, Brittany Stevens — who was present for his Hazle Township inauguration 15 years ago — will give his commission. Louise Stevens, to whom the judge was married last month the same day he learned of his confirmation, also will participate.
Stevens said he is still working on his own remarks for the event.
“I want to have a ceremony that will be interesting for people,” he said.
Educating people about the judicial system has long been a second job for Stevens, who 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. He also has held court sessions on law school and high school campuses, and recently he has participated in a legal education series on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.
The newly minted justice said he will continue to work out of his office in Drums, traveling to Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh as needed, much like his current schedule. He also plans to retain longtime clerks and staff, helping to smooth the transition.
While he doesn’t expect a long ceremony, perhaps 45 minutes, Stevens feels the event will be symbolic and “good for the county.”
“I just try to let people know more about the courts. I think that’s important,” he said.