Archive for March, 2008

Mar 28 2008

League of Women Voters and Philadelphia Bar Association Stand Up for Merit Selection

In letters to the editor this week in the Philadelphia Daily News, the League of Women Voters of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Bar Association unequivocally state their support for Merit Selection of appellate judges. On behalf of the League, Melissa R. Hunsberger writes: “Merit selection advocates believe that judges should be chosen based upon their qualifications rather than their political connections and that in doing so judges are freed from political influence and thus promotes a fair and impartial judiciary.”

Kenneth Shear, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Bar Association notes, “[W]ith a new selection method in place, as 44 other states have shown, our judiciary might be populated not by the best fund-raisers, but truly the best and the brightest.”

We thank the League of Women Voters and the Philadelphia Bar Association for their ongoing support and plan to continue to work with them to bring before the people of Pennsylvania the question of how we should select appellate judges.

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Mar 27 2008

An Unexpected Agreement To Let the People Decide

Last night on 1210 Tonight with Anthony Mazzarelli (WPHT 1210 AM, the Big Talker) Bob Heim, Board Chair of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, and Russ Diamond, founder and chair of PA Clean Sweep, found common ground. Heim and Diamond — who don’t necessarily agree about judicial selection issues — together called for the people of Pennsylvania to have the chance to decide the best way to pick appellate judges. Despite their different perspectives, they each declared that the people should have their say.

Heim and Diamond agreed that there should be a public referendum (the final stage in amending the Constitution) to settle the question of how to choose appellate judges. Big Talker host Anthony “Mazz” Mazzrelli also argued that it’s time to allow Pennsylvanians to determine the best way to pick our appellate judges. To listen to the discussion, you can download the podcast.

Future posts will discuss this further, but PMC and PMCAction want to be clear that changing the way we pick judges is a decision only the voters of Pennsylvania can make. And we trust them to make it.

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Mar 27 2008

Campaign Contributions Should Not Influence Judicial Nominees

Published by under Opinion,Our Perspective

An opinion piece in The Harvard Crimson points out that four states are in the midst of partisan elections to pick judges for their highest courts. In calling for a move away from partisan election of judges, the author highlights the problem of “judicial candidates [receiving] contributions from firms or attorneys who will potentially present cases, or at least play a role, in their prospective courtrooms”

We agree with the author when she says that we need to reform the way we select judges. Merit Selection gets appellate judges out of the fundraising business. It will help to ensure a fair and impartial judiciary, free from the appearance of bias.

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Mar 27 2008

Governor Rendell “Sounds Off” For Merit Selection

Published by under Merit Selection News

The Legal Intelligencer’s blog reports that Governor Rendell spoke about the need for Merit Selection during the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division annual meeting Tuesday. The Governor says he supports Merit Selection of appellate judges “because judicial candidates shouldn’t have to raise money from lawyers or potential litigants,” and “the state’s elected system of judges is a terrible system for diversity.”

Governor Rendell is a long-time believer in Merit Selection, and we appreciate his on-going support for the effort to change the way we pick appellate judges.

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Mar 26 2008

PMC Board Chair on 1210 Tonight

Bob Heim, Chair of the Executive Board of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, will appear on tonight’s edition of 1210 Tonight at 7 pm to talk about our Merit Selection proposal with host Anthony Mazzarelli. Russ Diamond, founder and Chair of PACleanSweep, is also scheduled to appear.

To learn more about Merit Selection, tune in to 1210 AM at 7 tonight, listen online, or grab the podcast. We expect a lively discussion.

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Mar 26 2008

Erie Times-News: Judges Should Be Selected on Merit

Published by under Merit Selection News

In an editorial published yesterday, the Times-News discusses some major problems with partisan election of judges, and how a switch to Merit Selection will help solve them.

There remains something unseemly about judges and justices raising money and having to display their political stripes. That is the main reason we support the latest effort to amend the state Constitution so statewide judges could be selected on the basis of merit.

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Mar 26 2008

Livejournal Users

Published by under Site Info

If you’d like to get JudgesOnMerit content on your Livejournal friends page, you can add the syndicated feed here.

You can also subscribe to JudgesOnMerit updates by adding our feed to your favorite reader.

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Mar 26 2008

What’s the Big Deal About Contributions to Judicial Campaigns?

One of the big reasons we need Merit Selection is to get money and fundraising out of the process of picking appellate judges. How much do these elections cost? Last year four candidates running for two open seats on the Pa. Supreme Court raised $7.85 million. That’s a record in Pennsylvania. And, much of that money came from lawyers, law firms, and organizations — like unions and business organizations — that often have cases in the appellate courts.

This is a problem because in Pennsylvania (and other states) judges don’t have to step aside (“recuse” in legal terms) in cases where the parties or lawyers gave money to help them get elected. That means that a judge can make the decision in a case that involves a lawyer or party who gave money, even a lot of money, to his or her election campaign.

This is a key cause of the increasingly widespread public belief that campaign contributions affect decisions made in the courtroom. This is not a problem unique to Pennsylvania. Illinois, Wisconsin, and West Virginia have all recently been in the news because of cases involving big donors to Supreme Court justices’ campaigns.

We think the solution is to get judges out of the fundraising business. The best way to do this is Merit Selection.

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Mar 24 2008

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Calls For Action on Merit Bills

An editorial in today’s Post-Gazette urges state lawmakers to take up Merit Selection legislation before the end of the current session. “This remedy could go a long way toward getting money and politics out of the courtroom. Now’s the time for the state House and Senate to move on it.”

As the piece points out, adopting a Merit Selection plan for appellate judges requires amending the Pennsylvania Constitution. Once the bill is passed in two consecutive sessions of the state legislature, the people of Pennsylvania will have their say in the form of a referendum vote.

The paper urges action by the legislature, so that the proposal can go before the people as early as possible. We strongly agree with the Post-Gazette that the voters of Pennsylvania should have their say on judicial selection as soon as possible.

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Mar 24 2008

Philadelphia Inquirer: Merit Selection “A Much Better Method”

Published by under Merit Selection News

An editorial in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer outlines the benefits of Merit Selection and the problems caused by the mounting expenses involved in electing judges: “With so much cash flowing into statewide judicial elections, there is no time to waste in changing the way judges are selected for the appellate bench.” Explaining that the increasing costs of elections decreases public confidence in the courts, the editorial notes “And that’s not good for any democracy.”

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