Mar 19 2013
Yesterday, I had the fortune of hearing three ex-governors of Pennsylvania get together on a single phone call with the media to discuss merit selection in Pennsylvania. These are three people from across the political spectrum who sometimes have difficulty agreeing upon which end of a dog barks; but on the subject of how we might improve our system of choosing judges, they spoke passionately and with a united perspective.
They – former Governors Edward Rendell, Dick Thornburgh, Thomas Ridge – spent a half hour answering questions and giving their opinions on the current Merit Selection bills in the Pennsylvania Assembly, why our state would benefit from Merit Selection, and how their own time in office only reinforced that perspective. This event followed a letter to legislators and Governor Corbett exhorting them to action on merit selection, signed by these three former governors and a fourth, former Governor George Leader.
The union of these former leaders of Pennsylvania show that how are judges are selected is not an issue defined by party lines or political ties – indeed, the eradication of political allegiance from the judicial selection process is one of benefits that proponents of Merit Selection hope will manifest. Governor Ridge emphasized that the ideal judiciary is supposed to be independent of political machinery. It is the branch of government that is given direction not by the changing flavor of public opinion, but
by the structures of law already established.
These four governors have all had first hand experience with how electioneering and campaigning casts a shadow over that independence, even when they themselves were forced to be participants of that system. They said they knew while in office that there was a better way to ensure the quality of Pennsylvania’s judiciary; and even now, long after they have all vacated the Pennsylvania’s Governor’s Mansion, they are working to give Pennsylvanians the opportunity to choose for themselves whether they agree.