Sunday, March 17, 2013
Courts - "Four former Pa. governors come out for judicial merit selection"
Aubrey Whelan, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer, reports today:
Pennsylvania is one of just a handful of states where residents elect all their judges in partisan elections - a system critics say has led judicial candidates to solicit big campaign donations from lawyers and special interests who could later appear in their courts.Later in the long story:
Over the years, various legislators have introduced constitutional amendments seeking to have governors appoint judges instead. None took hold.
On Monday, though, the age-old debate over judicial elections will take on a new look.
That's when three former governors - Republicans Dick Thornburgh and Tom Ridge, and Democrat Ed Rendell - are set to express their support, in a conference call, for having governors pick the state's top judges. A fourth, George Leader, a Democrat who was governor from 1955 to 1959, has also signed a letter to Gov. Corbett and the legislature indicating the same.
Proponents of so-called merit selection of state appellate judges are hoping those big names can help gather popular support for the long and grueling road toward a constitutional amendment.
Most states, including New Jersey, have some form of a merit selection system.
Under the system, the governor would be able to appoint judges, but could select them only from a pool of applicants screened and preapproved by a bipartisan nominating commission.
The former Pennsylvania governors' proposal would have governors appoint judges to the state's three appellate benches - Commonwealth, Superior and Supreme Courts. Municipal and Common Pleas Court judges would still have to campaign to win their seats in partisan races. Merit-selection supporters reason that voters are more familiar with local candidates.
The issue has gained renewed attention in recent months thanks to headlines about high-profile cases of judicial misconduct. The seven-seat Supreme Court has just six justices hearing cases after suspended Justice Joan Orie Melvin was convicted in February on six criminal charges. Jurors found that she had illegally used state-funded staff on her campaigns.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 17, 2013 03:33 PM
Posted to Courts in general