Jan 25 2013
Pennsylvania lawmakers have introduced legislation for Merit Selection of appellate judges.
The legislation proposes a constitutional amendment that would create an Appellate Court Nominating Commission designed to effectively evaluate judicial candidates and present a selective list of the most qualified candidates to the governor. The governor would then nominate from the provided list, with candidates then requiring Senate confirmation. Following a short initial term, judges would stand before voters in a nonpartisan uncontested retention election.
Lead co-sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia), comments that the legislation is “about ensuring integrity on the bench,” continuing that citizens must have “utmost confidence in our judiciary, and right now, that’s simply not the case.”
Lynn Marks, Executive Director of PMC and PMCAction, echoes this sentiment, stating, “The role of a judge is to make impartial decisions based solely on the facts and law, but judicial elections basically require judges to become politicians.”
With many controversial issues now facing the perception of Pennsylvania’s courts, Marks further explains that the current system of election is designed “to pick the best campaigners and fundraisers
not the best judges. Pennsylvanians need a system that is designed to get the most qualified, fair, and impartial judges on the bench.”
To remedy this, Marks argues that
“Pennsylvanians deserve a system where judges are chosen based on candidates’ credentials, not their campaign war chests, political affiliation, where they live, a familiar name, or where their name is on the ballot.”
Sen. Williams and co-sponsor Sen. Richard Alloway’s (R-Adams/Franklin/York) legislation would help significantly remedy these issues by taking the electioneering out of Pennsylvania’s current system of judicial selection of appellate judges.