Jun 15 2012
An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer examines the efforts to implement a Merit Selection system in Pennsylvania. The article highlights Justice Orie Melvin’s indictment for allegedly using her state funded staff and resources for her election campaigns and notes that this is not the first time that one of Pennsylvania’s state judges has been in trouble.
But beyond the scandals, Pennsylvania’s current judicial election system creates other big problems. Discussing one of the biggest, former Dean of Temple University, Beasley School of Law, Professor Robert Reinstein stated,
To run, you have to be willing to raise enormous amounts of money. To think that you can have this system with all this money floating around without compromising judicial independence is equivalent to believing in the Easter Bunny.”
Why in the wake of such problems did the House Judiciary Committee decide 13-12 to table the Merit Selection bill? The article explains that trial lawyers, anti-abortion activists and others oppose Merit Selection.
A pivotal development occurred June 1, when the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, an anti-abortion group, informed members of the House Judiciary Committee that it opposed the measure and would weigh members’ votes when making endorsements in the next election.”
Committee chairman Ron Marsico (R., Dauphin) who initially “believed he had enough votes to release the bill from committee, said the e-mail swayed several committee members to vote to table the measure.”
This Bill would have given voters the opportunity to decide in a referendum whether to adopt a Merit Selection System for the appellate courts. Lynn Marks, executive director at Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts observed,
Tags: judicial elections, Merit Selection, Orie Melvin, Philadelphia Inquirer, reform
‘The part that is ironic is that it is the groups that say we need to elect judges who are saying don’t vote for this legislation.’ She added that those opponents are taking a very hard to defend position and are basically saying ‘we don’t want the people to have the right to change their constitution.’”