May 24 2012
Pennsylvania newspapers continue to call attention to the fact that judicial campaigns undermine the integrity of the courts. In a discussion of the campaign corruption charges against Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, the Harrisburg Patriot-News says, “This is just the latest ordeal that demonstrates that having judges campaign for their spots on the court can taint the justice system.”
Orie Melvin is charged with using state resources for political campaign work in her Supreme Court election campaigns in 2003 and 2009. As the article emphasizes, “Certain professions demand an extra degree of integrity and respect. … The state Supreme Court represents the highest tier of justice in this state. Its integrity is essential if the court is to have relevance and authority.”
It is time to stop using elections to select our appellate judges. Pending Merit Selection legislation would begin the process of amending the state constitution. That process culminates in a public referendum that lets the people of Pennsylvania decide whether or not there is a better way for the commonwealth to choose appellate judges.