Jun 05 2012
In an op-ed in the Harrisburg Patriot-News, PMC today calls for the state legislature to begin the process of giving the people of Pennsylvania the opportunity to decide whether there is a better way to select appellate court judges. The editorial notes the recent scandals that have rocked our state courts, including the indictment of a sitting Supreme Court justice for illegal campaign practices, and highlights the growing dissatisfaction with judicial elections:
A 2010 public opinion survey of Pennsylvania voters reflected deep distrust of the judicial election system: 76 percent believe that campaign contributions influence judges’ decisions; only 21 percent believe the most qualified candidates win judicial elections.
These staggering numbers reflect a lack of faith that elections produce qualified, fair and impartial judges. Research demonstrates widespread belief that “justice is for sale” to campaign contributors with deep pockets.
points out that:
It has been more than 40 years since the public had the chance to weigh in on how to choose our judges. In the 2010 statewide poll, 93 percent responded that Pennsylvanians should have the right to vote on this issue.
Pennsylvanians should not have to accept a system they believe is broken. It is time to give voters the opportunity to decide whether there is a better way to choose appellate court judges. Our legislators should give the public that opportunity.
Today, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on H.B. 1815, which would amend the constitution to change from electing appellate judges to using a Merit Selection system. A positive vote will send the bill to the House Floor. But this is only the first step in a lengthy process. Amending the constitution takes much time and deliberation — two successive legislatures must pass identical legislation. If that happens, the people must vote in a referendum to amend the constitution. As PMC points out in the editorial, “our constitution can change only if the people of Pennsylvania vote to change it.”
We believe it is time for Pennsylvanians to have that opportunity. We hope the legislature will give it to them.Tags: Harrisburg Patriot-News, HB 1815, House Judiciary Committee, judicial elections, Merit Selection, PMC