May 28 2009
In the wake of the recent Pennsylvania judicial primary elections, the issue of Merit Selection has become a hot topic for Pennsylvania bloggers. The World According to Tony Polombo offers an interesting assessment on some of the problems with judicial elections, focusing particularly on the lack of relevant information available to voters about the candidates:
For most of us, the only way we could tell for sure that there was an election were the countless number of candidates’ signs up and down the road for judges — most of whom we have never even heard of let alone know whether they would make good judges.
Polombo goes on to raise the problem of the role of money in judicial elections, and then suggests Merit Selection as a possible reform. He notes that electing public officials is important, but argues that elections where voters don’t know enough to make informed decisions are akin to “elections” with only one candidate or where the names of candidates are covered up.
Of course, there’s also the issue that judges are different from other other public officials and are supposed to make decisions without regard to personal opinions, political party pressure, popular will or the views of campaign contributors. To us, that’s a major reason that electing judges just doesn’t make sense.
The question is not whether merit selection is perfect (it’s not). It’s whether it is an improvement over the system used by a minority of states who still have partisan elections for judges. Here in Pennsylvania, a number of groups, individual politicians, and newspaper editorial boards are supporters of merit selection for judges. The present system we have of electing judges has become a joke. Isn’t it time we all finally give this idea some serious consideration?
Thanks, Tony, for raising the question. We certainly think it’s time Pennsylvanians gave some serious thought to changing how we select appellate court judges.
David Yonki blogging at the Lu Lac Political Letter also gives some post-election thought to Merit Selection for the appellate courts:
Statewide. . . I think it should be considered. We don’t know candidates from Western Pennsylvania or even from one of our neighboring counties. But if a candidate has a gender and geographic base, they’ll win.
We are pleased to see Pennsylvanians questioning the current system and calling for some meaningful discussion about reform. We think it’s time to let Pennsylvanians decide whether to change how to select appellate court judges. Let the dialogue continue!Tags: David Yonki, judicial elections, Merit Selection, Pennsylvania, The Lu Lac Political Letter, The World According to Tony Polombo, Tony Polumbo