Pa. having doubts on wisdom of electing judges

    Over the course of this year’s campaign for Pennsylvania’s state Supreme Court seat, both candidates questioned whether they should be running for the bench to begin with.

    Over the course of this year’s campaign for Pennsylvania’s State Supreme Court seat, both candidates questioned whether they should be running for the bench to begin with.

    Sponsors of legislation abolishing statewide judicial elections and imposing a merit selection system say the answer is “no.”

    Listen:
    [audio: 091207sdjudges.mp3]

    Supporters of merit selection for judges say judicial candidates breed cynicism when they appear at partisan rallies and solicit money for campaigns.

    Robert Heim, the chairman of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, points out Judges Joan Orie Melvin and Jack Panella raised more than $3,000,000 during this year’s state Supreme Court race.

    Heim: Most of it came from lawyers. Lawyers who are going to have their matters entertained and judged by the people to whom they were contributing money.

    Heim endorses a package of bills creating a fourteen-member commission that would screen judicial candidates for each opening, and then recommend “two to five” prospective appointees to the governor, who would select a nominee and send his or her name to the Senate for confirmation.

    The legislation would require a constitutional amendment, which would need to pass in two consecutive legislative sessions, and then be approved by Pennsylvania’s voters.

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