Why Pennsylvania will always be a second-rate loser of a state: election of judges

Pennsylvania voters will have the opportunity to elect or retain judges this year to the Supreme Court, the Superior Court, and the Commonwealth Court. Local judges will also be elected. In Philadelphia voters will elect judges to the Court of Common Pleas, the Philadelphia Municipal Court, and the Philadelphia Traffic Court.

What percentage of voters do you think will have any clue about any judicial candidates when they vote on May 17 and November 8? Judicial candidates have to rely on political bosses to put their names on sample ballots in order to win.

Election of judges is a terrible idea and a terrible practice. It results in judges beholden to those who helped to elect them. There’s a reason why all federal judges are appointed and none are elected. While judicial appointment through a merit selection process is not a perfect system, it is far superior to election of judges, and results in a judiciary in which citizens have a higher level of confidence and respect.

I’ve written recently that one reason corporations choose to incorporate in the neighboring state of Delaware is the quality of the Delaware courts, all of whose judges are appointed. The flip side of that is that one reason corporations do not choose to incorporate in adjoining Pennsylvania is the quality of the Pennsylvania courts.

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Businesses need to know that their problems will be addressed promptly and competently by judges having jurisdiction. They have that confidence in Delaware. They don’t have that confidence in Pennsylvania.

And so Pennsylvania loses another congressional seat and another vote in the Electoral College as a result of the 2010 census, after losing two seats and electoral votes after the 2000 census. Do Pennsylvanians care? Apparently not. The power brokers in Pennsylvania prefer the status quo which allows them to choose judges because voters cannot be expected to pay attention to all the judicial elections and candidates. And so the decline of Pennsylvania continues. Loser!

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