Pa. chief justice says judges shouldn’t be elected

Now that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled on the politically charged voter ID law, legislators are waiting for a decision on another deeply politicized issue — the challenge to a redistricting plan for state House and Senate districts.

Chief Justice Ronald Castille said in an recent interview he’s favors reducing political influence on the judiciary by ending the election of judges in the state.

Castille stunned Pennsylvania lawmakers in January by breaking with his fellow Republicans on the court and casting the deciding vote to overturn a redistricting plan challenged by Democrats. The Legislative Reapportionment Commission has returned with a new map, and it’s again under challenge by citizen activists and Senate Democrats.

Castille, who says he has long believed in merit selection of judges, said it was a plank in his platform when he ran for the court in 1993.

“Even back then I was saying, ‘Wow, you know, this is an odd way to elect individuals who are going to have significant control over situations in your lives or business disputes, government disputes,'” he said.

Castille hasn’t actively crusaded for merit selection, since it’s an issue for the Legislature to consider. But he said he still believes in the idea.

Activists have tried and, so far, fallen short on trying to create courts with appointed jurists.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.