Mar 01 2012

Merit Selection: The 2011-2012 Bills

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Summary of Constitutional Amendment for Merit Selection of Appellate Judges

House Bill 1815 and House Bill 1816: Reps. Bryan Cutler

Senate Bill 843 & Senate Bill 842 : Senators Jane M. Earll

  • Purpose: To replace the current process of electing appellate court judges with a new process that combines elements of elective and appointive systems: using a nomination process with a retention election component, and adding the unique element of an independent nominating commission to evaluate candidates and recommend the most qualified for possible nomination.
  • Vehicles: An amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution is required to change the process by which we select justices and judges for the Pennsylvania Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth Courts. Implementation legislation is being recommended for the details of the process.
  • Procedure: The Governor shall nominate judges to be confirmed by the Senate from a list of candidates recommended by the Appellate Court Nominating Commission. Judges will serve initial terms of 4 years followed by retention elections for full ten year terms. (Currently, retention elections are held every ten years after the initial election.)
  • Structure: The Appellate Court Nominating Commission will consist of 15 members: 4 appointed by the Governor, 4 appointed by the General Assembly (one by each of the legislative leaders) and 7 public members.
    • The Governor cannot appoint more than two members of any political party and all 4 appointees must be from different counties. All four appointees will be non-lawyers. None of the Governor’s appointees can be relatives or members of the Governor’s staff.
    • Each of the legislative appointees must be lawyers; none of them can be members of the General Assembly or their staff or related to any member of the General Assembly.
    • One public member will be a dean of a Pennsylvania law school, chosen by the deans of all Pennsylvania law schools.
    • The other public members will be selected from nominations made by civic organizations, unions, business organizations, bar associations, nonlawyer professional associations and public safety organizations. The Secretary of the Commonwealth will draw names of Commission members by lot from the nominations made by the 5 organizations with the highest numbers of Pennsylvania residents. Upon the expiration of a public member’s term, the same process will be used to choose a successor.
    • The Commission members choose their own chair.
  • Qualifications of Commission Members
    • A member must be a resident of the Commonwealth for at least 1 year prior to appointment & must be at least 18 years of age.
    • A member may not be a party official or a public official, except that a part-time solicitor to a local municipality or school district may be a member.
    • A member may not be a judge.
    • A member may not be a lobbyist.
    • Those involved in appointing members of the Commission should ensure that the Commission includes men and women as well as individuals who represent racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds and who reflect the geographic diversity of Pennsylvania.
  • Terms of Office
    • Terms of members shall be 4 years.
    • Members will not be permitted to serve back-to-back terms.
    • A member may only be removed by a majority vote of the remaining members and then only as a result of the violation of the Commission’s rules or because the member no longer meets the requirements to be a member of the Commission.
  • Qualifications for Service on the Appellate Courts
    • Only individuals who are licensed members of the Pennsylvania bar in good standing, have spent at least 10 years practicing law, serving as a judge or engaged in some other law-related occupation may be deemed qualified to serve on the appellate courts.
    • To be qualified to serve, individuals must also have demonstrated integrity, judicial temperament, professional competence and commitment to the community.
    • Commission members will evaluate applicants and, following interviews and the opportunity for public comment about candidates, forward a list of five recommended individuals to the Governor. The Commission should ensure that the list should include both men and women who come from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds and who reflect the geographic diversity of Pennsylvania.
    • The list provided to the Governor will be made public.
  • Nomination by the Governor
    • The Governor shall nominate a candidate for the appellate court vacancy from the list provided by the Commission.
    • The Governor may not request additional lists from the Commission, nor may the Governor request that certain names be added to the list.
  • Senate confirmation
    • The Governor’s nominee will require the advice and consent of a majority of the Senate.
    • The Senate will act on each nominee within 15 legislative days or the appointment will be made final.
    • If the Senate rejects a total of 3 nominations, the Commission will make a final appointment without the involvement of the Governor or the Senate.
  • Miscellaneous
    • Department of State will lend administrative support to the Commission.
    • Commission members will serve without compensation, but will be reimbursed for expenses.

38 responses so far

38 Responses to “Merit Selection: The 2011-2012 Bills”

  1. [...] Merit Selection: The Bills [...]

  2. [...] in Pennsylvania and from other states’ nominating commissions as well. A more detailed summary of the legislation is available on our [...]

  3. [...] Merit Selection: The Bills [...]

  4. [...] Merit Selection: The Bills [...]

  5. [...] testimony, see PMC’s posting on its Judges on Merit blog. PMC’s Web site also offers specifics about the proposed legislation. One especially interesting feature is the makeup of the nominating commissions, which would assure [...]

  6. [...] are bills pending in the Pennsylvania legislature that would “replace the current process of electing [...]

  7. [...] to the bills a  brief summary can be found on our legislation page. We hope to engage in a productive [...]

  8. [...] Legislation has just been introduced in Pennsylvania to implement Merit Selection for the appellate courts.  As PMC Executive Lynn Marks has explained, “The Caperton decision recognizes the danger inherent in the judicial campaign contribution game.  We believe the best solution is to get judges out of the fundraising business altogether — by instituting Merit Selection.” [...]

  9. [...] in Pennsylvania can do something, too.  Legislation has been introduced to change the state constitution to implement Merit Selection for the appellate [...]

  10. [...] Subcommittee on Courts of the House Judiciary Committee will be holding two hearings on the pending legislation to amend the constitution to implement Merit Selection for the appellate courts.  We thank Representative Don Walko, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, for scheduling [...]

  11. [...] the judicial reform bills currently before the state legislature would replace elections with Merit Selection only for [...]

  12. [...] Legislation is pending in both houses of the legislature to implement a Merit Selection system for the three statewide appellate courts.  Clearly, confidence in the current judicial elections system is low, as fewer voters than in past years turned out to vote this week. [...]

  13. [...] news from the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts: a hearing on the Merit Selection legislation will be held in Harrisburg, Monday December 7 from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm in the Irvis Building, Room [...]

  14. [...] 7, the Courts Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on the pending Merit Selection legislation.  The hearing will be at 10:00 am in Room G50, Irvis Office, Capitol [...]

  15. [...] Monday, the Courts Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the pending Merit Selection legislation.  Representative Josh Shapiro (D, Montgomery) chaired the hearing in Subcommittee Chair Don [...]

  16. [...] admitting initial skepticism, the Herald Standard has come out in support of House Bill 1619, which would put an end to judicial elections at the appellate level by instituting a system of [...]

  17. [...] from elections to merit selection requires a change in the state constitution. There is current legislation pending in both the House and Senate to achieve such an [...]

  18. [...] Legislation is currently pending in the Pennsylvania legislature to amend the constitution to implement Merit Selection for appellate court judges. “Merit Selection takes money out of the selection process and ensures that we select judges based on their qualifications and experience, not the size of campaign war chests,” concluded PMC’s Marks. [...]

  19. [...] to implement Merit Selection for appellate court judges—read about the legislation at http://judgesonmerit.org/about-this-campaign/merit-selection-bill/. “Merit Selection takes money out of the selection process and ensures that we select judges [...]

  20. [...] Legislation is pending in both houses that would begin the process of amending the constitution — a process that would culminate in a public referendum on whether to change the way we select appellate court judges.  We agree that the time to act is now. [...]

  21. [...] Rendell held a news conference today stressing the importance of House and Senate bills that would change the way Pennsylvania chooses its appellate judges from elections to Merit [...]

  22. [...] Read the actual legislation on merit selection here. [...]

  23. [...] editorial in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer offers a positive review of the introduction of Merit Selection legislation in the General Assembly. The editorial cites the 2010 Poll that found that 93% of the Pennsylvanians [...]

  24. | judgesonmerit.orgon 26 Sep 2011 at 1:50 pm

    [...] article also looks to Pennsylvania, recognizing the recent introduction of Merit Selection legislation designed as “an an effort to rein in the role of money and fundraising in judicial [...]

  25. [...] Selection legislation is pending in the House and Senate, and it is likely that the House Judiciary Committee will hold a [...]

  26. | judgesonmerit.orgon 01 Nov 2011 at 10:13 am

    [...] Merit Selection legislation is pending in the House and Senate.  Passage would set the stage for Pennsylvanians to have the opportunity to decide whether we should find a better way to select appellate court judges.  Without reform, we are left with the alternative described in the closing words of the editorial: a Pennsylvania where “politicians and public alike wear self-imposed blindfolds and pretend only to hear banging gavels, not cash hitting the scales of justice.” [...]

  27. [...] 17 from 1:30-3:30 pm in Philadelphia.  The hearing will address the pending Merit Selection legislation, H.B. 1815 and H.B. [...]

  28. [...] It’s election day, and there are many important judicial elections on the ballot. Although we don’t think elections are the best way to choose judges, as long as this is the system in place, we urge voters to educate themselves and go to the polls.  You can find information about the elections on PMC’s current elections page and frequently asked questions page.  You can learn about the pending proposals to change the way we select appellate court judges on the Merit Selection legislation page. [...]

  29. [...] Public Hearing on Merit Selection  (HB 1815 and 1816) will be held by the PA House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, March 1st from 1:30-3:30 pm, at the [...]

  30. [...] business next week, and one of the items still pending before the House Judiciary Committee are the Merit Selection Bills (H.B. 1815 and H.B. 1816).  To start the constitutional amendment process — which will  culminate with the people [...]

  31. PMCAction Alert | judgesonmerit.orgon 03 May 2012 at 11:09 am

    [...] Please contact the members of the House Judiciary Committee and ask them to vote YES on sending Merit Selection Bills (H.B. 1815 and H.B. 1816) to the full House for [...]

  32. [...] Please contact the members of the House Judiciary Committee and ask them to vote YES on sending Merit Selection Bills (H.B. 1815 and H.B. 1816) to the full House for [...]

  33. [...] House Judiciary Committee meeting, Chairman Marsico announced that several bills, including the Merit Selection legislation, would be held over for consideration at a future meeting.  Although we are disappointed in the [...]

  34. [...] 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 [...]

  35. [...] House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on the Merit Selection legislation (H.B. 1815) next Tuesday, June 5.  A favorable Committee vote would send the bill to the floor [...]

  36. [...] post also quotes the Urban League’s praise for the Merit Selection legislation: “The bills… offer ‘opportunities for qualified candidates without access to [...]

  37. [...] of taking politics out of the process.  This is a good model for Ohio to follow.  Take a look athttp://judgesonmerit.org/about-this-campaign/merit-selection-bill Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… ← Previous [...]

  38. [...] House Bill 1815 and 1816 would replace the current process of electing appellate court judges, with one that utilizes an independent nominating commission that would submit slates of candidates to the governor for a final selection.  The editorial writes that this is by no means a perfect system, but it is “simply superior” to the current method. Electing judges tends to emphasize “fundraising, geography, and ethnic identification” above judicial qualifications, the editorial says. [...]