Nov 01 2011
Lady Justice is often depicted blindfolded to signify that outside influence does not tip the scales she holds to weigh the truth. Unfortunately, the scales are being tipped by special interests that pour money into judicial elections to get a desired result.
Too often it is the voters themselves who are blind to what is going on, yet this is a national problem and Pennsylvania is affected worse than most.
The editorial discusses the money raised in the 2009 Pennsylvania Supreme Court race between Justice Joan Orie Melvin and Judge Jack Panella, and notes that plaintiffs’ trial lawyers and the state Republican party provided much of the money that funded those campaigns.
The editorial then urges that the solution to the money problem is Merit Selection: “In a merit selection system of the sort proposed but not adopted in Pennsylvania, the corrupting influence of money would not be an issue.” That’s true, because Merit Selection gets judges out of the fundraising business and stops the flow of money to judicial candidates from people and organizations that later appear before the judges they helped elect.
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.”Jack Panella, Joan Orie Melvin, judicial elections, Merit Selection, New Politics of Judicial Selection 209-2010, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette