Fair elections, crazy judges

    When Tom Corbett ran for governor last year, he dismissed calls that he resign from his post as state attorney general, arguing that he could campaign and still do his day job.

    Well, did he?

    William Bender reported last week in the Philadelphia Daily News that Corbett finished the year without ever taking action on the obvious forgeries in nominating petitions of then-Republican Congressional candidate Pat Meehan.

    The case was referred to the attorney general’s office by Delaware County prosecutors, and while Meehan has not been accused of wrongdoing, there were clearly phony signatures on petitions submitted by a well-known Delco Republican operative.

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    A spokesman for the attorney general’s office said the investigation is ongoing, but Bender reports that nine months after the case was referred to the AG’s office, they hadn’t even interviewed a key witness.

    I mention this story for three reasons:

    1. We’ll never get clean elections until we actually prosecute people for this kind of stuff. Typically campaign dirty tricks generate only complaints or civil actions that are forgotten once the election is over.

    2. This story involves suburban Republicans allegedly involved in the hijinks people normally associate with Philadelphia Democrats. Sleaze knows no boundaries.

    3. Bender’s work is a prime example of the kind of reporting I hope survives as the Daily News comes under new leadership. Check out Bender’s blog post on the case.

    Also, picture a Manhattan federal judge wondering aloud in court how this new-fangled thing called e-mail works: “It pops up in a machine in some administrative office, and is somebody there with a duty to take it around and give it to whoever it’s named to?” Judge Richard Owen wondered.

    Reporter Joseph Goldstein cites many examples of memory lapses and strange behavior by elderly judges in his piece for the investigative non-profit ProPublica, which was also published in Slate.

    Goldstein says lifetime tenure for judges, was designed to promote judicial independence means something different than it did in 1789, when the average American lived to be about 40.

    Today one out of five federal judges are over 80. Eleven are in their nineties.

    Federal benches everywhere are confronted with aging jurists, and no clear procedures to test whether they’re mentally competent and no process for removing those who aren’t.

    Read Goldstein’s piece here.

    I also recommend Marian Wang’s ProPublica piece examining the Republican claim that the health care reform bill kills, er destroys jobs.

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