Aug 05 2008
On September 16, 2008, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Merit Selection legislation that was introduced this session.
Addressing the Committee in support of the legislation were: Charlotte Glauser, Judicial Specialist for the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania; Sayde Ladov, Chancellor-Elect of the Philadelphia Bar Association; Gene Barr, Vice President for Government Relations of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry; Edward Lanza, member of the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Central Pennsylvania; Paul H. Titus, Counsel to the Pittsburgh office of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, LLP on behalf of a group of Allegheny County lawyers, nonlawyers and judges; and David Taylor, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association. The Honorable Judge Justin Johnson, retired judge of the Superior Court and one of a handful of African Americans ever elected to the appellate bench, was scheduled to testify but was unable to attend because of an injury. Reverend Dr. William Moore of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia & Vicinity also was scheduled to present testimony, but was unable to attend because of an accident on the way to the hearing.
Testifying against the bills were Professor Marina Angel of the Temple University Beasley School of Law and Michael Foley and Mark Phenicie, president and legislative counsel of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice. Russ Diamond of PA Cleansweep was scheduled to testify in opposition, but did not attend the hearing.
Written testimony was submitted to the Committee by many of the speakers and by other Coalition partners who were not able to address the Committee in person. The following submissions are available electronically, and we will add others as they become available:
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was an important step in the public dialogue required to amend the constitution to change the way we select appellate judges. The testimony presented highlighted the problems inherent in electing judges, the benefits of Merit Selection and the need to have a public dialogue on this issue. As Senator Mary Jo White of the Committee explained:
1969 [when last a referendum was held on this issue] was forty years ago. A lot has changed in that time, the money, television ads, out of state money. . . Let’s ask the people again. It shows a lot of confidence in the voters to ask “are you confident in voting for appellate court judges?”
We agree and hope that the legislature will take the necessary steps to bring this question to the people.
For more information about the current Merit Selection proposal, you can view the bills and read a summary on our legislation page.
Contact the Senate Judiciary Committee about Merit Selection. Contact information is available here.