Nov 09 2009
The editorial board of the Reading Eagle makes a strong case to move to Merit Selection of judges in an editorial published today. The paper cites the record amount raised to date by Judge Jack Panella ($2.35 million), and that the total raised by both campaigns is expected to total over $4 million by the time final reports are due on February 1, 2010.
In fact, the numbers do not reflect the true amounts raised by the candidates. As we’ve reported on previously (here, here, and here, for example), the widely reported amounts raised in elections typically represent only money contributed directly to the campaigns of the candidates, and not third party and political party money spent directly on the election. Election observers will note that all of Judge Orie Melvin’s television commercials were paid for by the Republican Party, and thus represent a huge sum of money not reflected in her campaign’s reported contributions and expenditures (Panella’s ads were paid for directly by his campaign).
PMC’s Lynn Marks was quoted as saying why all of this is so troubling:
[T]he money comes from lawyers, law firms, unions and businesses who frequently litigate in the state courts. . . . These are not the types of records Pennsylvania should be proud of. But when you elect judges in partisan contests, the elections become more expensive, not less so.’”
Marks said nine of 10 Pennsylvanians polled by a state Supreme Court commission believe that judges are at least sometimes influenced by campaign contributions.
That’s no way to run an election for the state’s appellate court system. There has to be a better way, and there is. And it is nothing new. In fact former Gov. Tom Ridge, before he left office to join President George W. Bush’s Cabinet, urged the Pennsylvania Legislature to begin the move toward merit selection of statewide judges.”
There are currently bills before the state house and senate proposing a detailed plan for the selection of appellate judges based on merit. It’s time for the state to decisively take money out of the equation.Tags: campaign finance, Jack Panella, Joan Orie Melvin, judicial elections, legislation, Merit Selection, Reading Eagle, Tom Ridge