Apr 30 2010
Capitolwire today named merit selection for judges a “hot reform issue,” listing reasons why supporters are eager to rid Pennsylvania of judicial elections.
[T]he elections are expensive, it’s unseemly to make judges rely on campaign contributions from lawyers and big groups whose cases will likely come before them, the judges can’t really tell voters what they will do if elected, etc.
But the article goes further in stating that these arguments should apply to elections for the office of lieutenant governor as well. The race for lieutenant governor, like those for the appellate courts, often
hinges on arbitrary fact
ors such as geography or ballot position. In many instances voters, lacking sufficient and relevant information about the candidates, are left with cable television ads from which to base their decisions.
The role of judge and that of lieutenant governor are exceedingly different and thus elections for the two positions cannot truly be viewed as analogous. Judges are different from other elected officials in that they are supposed to be impartial and not beholden to any particular interests or constituency groups. Elections are simply an improper way to select the “neutral arbiters” of the Pennsylvania appellate bench. Only a switch to merit selection will remedy the public perception of judges as “politicians in robes.”