Judges debate campaign finances in race

    Pennslyvania is only one of a half dozen states that elects judges, forcing them to raise money and campaign.

    Pennslyvania is only one of a half dozen states that elects judges, forcing them to raise money and campaign. At a debate between two candidates seeking an open seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, it didn’t take long for the issue of money to come up. The candidates faced off Thursday at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law.

    Listen:
    [audio: 091022spjudge.mp3]

    Easton Democrat Jack Panella has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars more than Pittsburgh Republican Joan Orie Melvin. Melvin said her opponent would be beholden to his two main contributors Philadelphia trial lawyers, and labor unions.

    Melvin: We have special interests who are participating in these elections, the public perceives this as justice for sale, pay to play.

    But Panella fired back.

    Panella: I’ve received support from people who represent the citizens of Pennsylvania and I’m very proud of that. I notice my opponent didn’t turn down the $100,000 dollars that was offered to her and made the same pleas to labor, that I made.

    Asked whether he would recuse himself if a contributor argued a case before him, Panella said he would decide on a case by case basis. Melvin said the Supreme Court should have a policy of automatic recusals if a party has made a large donation.

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