Before Pa. primary, group pushing to reject Chief Justice’s re-election bid

    State government reform activists are getting a head start on their campaign to oust Pennsylvania’s top judge. 

    As voters prepare for Tuesday’s primary, Eric Epstein of the reform group Rock the Capital says Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille shouldn’t get a thumbs-up in his retention election this fall.

     

    Epstein adds the judge shouldn’t even be running for retention when he’s fast approaching the state’s mandatory judicial retirement age of 70.

    “I think the game changer here is the fact that he’s 69 and running for an office that he can only serve 10 percent of his term for,” Epstein said.

    Efforts are underway in the Legislature to increase the retirement age or erase it altogether, and cases challenging it are pending before the high court.

    A report commissioned by Epstein lists 10 major problems with Castille’s tenure on the court since 2004, including the decision allowing judges to keep a pay raise that had been repealed by the state lawmakers.

    Longtime activist Tim Potts helped craft the report.  He says he wants to hold debate-like forums with the Chief Justice on judicial administration and ethics, and why he thinks Castille should not get to stay on the bench.

    “I prefer to call it a discussion, because I don’t want it to be adversarial as I want it to be educational,” said Potts. “Now, it’s bound to be adversarial when we talk about whether he should be retained.”

    The grievances include the court decision, written by Castille, that allowed judges to keep a pay raise that had been repealed by state lawmakers.

    The activists also fault Castille for not investigating scandals-in-the-making sooner.

    In response, Castille is calling the activists’ report “slanted,” and points to the work he’s done to keep every Pennsylvania courtroom open despite the tough economy.

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