Had Larsen not been removed, he would have been next in line to succeed Nix. Larsen's removal placed Nix's close friend, John P. Flaherty, in position to succeed to the chief's job.
``It's like night and day, let's put it that way,'' said Nix, comparing Flaherty to Larsen. Both Flaherty and Larsen are from Pittsburgh.
In an interview, Nix at last gave voice to the hard feelings that court insiders knew had existed for more than 15 years. They dated from 1981, when Larsen allegedly attempted to have Nix defeated in a retention election by using a racial epithet. Nix won handily.
Larsen thereafter was accused of 40 counts of misconduct, including using racial slurs against Nix. The Judicial Inquiry and Review Board, dominated by judges, cleared him of those charges in 1983.
Nix became the first African-American to serve on the high court in 1972, and he became the first African-American chief justice in the nation in 1984.
``I certainly wouldn't have gotten off the court one moment earlier than I had to,'' Nix said, referring to his intention to remain if there was any possibility of Larsen succeeding him. ``I think everyone knows that.''
After Larsen was cleared by JIRB, the justices of the high court tried to create the appearance of harmony. But sources said any collegiality that had existed vanished and, until Larsen was removed, communication had been reduced largely to electronic messaging.
Nix said Flaherty, 64, would ``do an excellent job.''
``We have basically the same philosophy and we care about the integrity of the court,'' said Nix. ``I'm very pleased.''
Nix is godfather to Flaherty's son, Devon.
The son of the late U.S. Rep. Robert N.C. Nix, Nix was elected to the Common Pleas bench in Philadelphia in 1967.
Nix would not discuss his plans, saying he would first talk it over with his family. He is married, has four sons and three grandchildren.