Jan 14 2013
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille spoke with WHYY’s Dave Davies on subjects ranging from the Philadelphia Family Courthouse to Philadelphia Traffic Court to Mandatory Retirement and Retention Elections. One subject that featured rather prominently in the interview was the influence of politics on the court and Chief Justice Castille’s continued support for judicial selection reform.
The Chief Justice said that he has favored reform ever since he ran for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1993. The electoral system just didn’t make sense to him as an effective way to choose judges. Essentially, it put judges in the same
position as any other elected official. Candidates have to campaign and raise money and go on TV. This system doesn’t give Pennsylvania the best judges.
Castille admitted that politics would be a factor in any selection system, but the trend of ever-increasing campaign donations in judicial races is harmful. “I’ve seen poll after poll…the question is asked, ‘Do you believe that political contributions influence a judge’s decision?’ It’s usually about 80% of the people who are polled believe that. And that’s not a good thing. People lack confidence in justice.”
As the new legislative session gets under way, the time is right for Pennsylvania to enact reform. The 2013
judicial election cycle has already started to stir up controversy. With a number of landmark cases on the docket, Pennsylvania judges need to focus on the administration of justice, not the campaign trail.