Apr 11 2008

Merit Media Watch 4/11/08

On Wednesday, PMC and PMCAction Associate Director Shira Goodman discussed Merit Selection of Pennsylvania’s appellate judges on Legislative Journal, with Representative Barbara McIlvaine Smith, from Chester County’s 156th District. Video of the appearance will be available shortly.

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Apr 05 2008

Setting the Record Straight — What the Wall Street Journal Got Wrong

There’s been a lot of chatter about a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal criticizing those calling for Merit Selection of state judges. The editorial opened with a discussion of John Grisham’s new novel The Appeal, a story about a big corporation trying to influence the outcome of a case by contributing to a judicial election campaign. In response to Grisham’s comments that the novel was being played out in real life examples throughout the country, the editorial moved on to attack Merit Selection.

The editorial asserted: “In a result that might surprise Mr. Grisham, a 2007 Harvard study actually found that judges who are elected directly by voters are overall less corrupt than those who win their robes through other methods of selection.” This is a blatant mischaracterization of both the focus and the conclusions of the 2007 Harvard study.

The study, conducted by James Alt and David Lassen, focused on government corruption. It addressed whether the way judges are picked affects the ability of the judiciary to thwart corruption by the other branches of government. The study did not address judicial corruption, and it certainly didn’t reach conclusions about whether the way judges are selected affects levels of corruption in the judiciary.

The author of the editorial twisted the results of the study to serve her purpose of attacking those who support Merit Selection. In doing so, she misled the readers of the Wall Street Journal.

The facts about the Harvard study were presented to the Wall Street Journal in a letter to the editor authored by Lynn Marks of PMC and PMCAction and Seth Andersen of the American Judicature Society. However, this letter has not (at least as yet) been printed by the Journal.

Reasonable people can and do disagree about how judges should be selected. But reasonable people should make their decisions based on the facts. We trust the people of Pennsylvania to do just that and to vote on whether to change the way we select our appellate judges. What are the critics of Merit Selection so afraid of?

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Mar 27 2008

An Unexpected Agreement To Let the People Decide

Last night on 1210 Tonight with Anthony Mazzarelli (WPHT 1210 AM, the Big Talker) Bob Heim, Board Chair of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, and Russ Diamond, founder and chair of PA Clean Sweep, found common ground. Heim and Diamond — who don’t necessarily agree about judicial selection issues — together called for the people of Pennsylvania to have the chance to decide the best way to pick appellate judges. Despite their different perspectives, they each declared that the people should have their say.

Heim and Diamond agreed that there should be a public referendum (the final stage in amending the Constitution) to settle the question of how to choose appellate judges. Big Talker host Anthony “Mazz” Mazzrelli also argued that it’s time to allow Pennsylvanians to determine the best way to pick our appellate judges. To listen to the discussion, you can download the podcast.

Future posts will discuss this further, but PMC and PMCAction want to be clear that changing the way we pick judges is a decision only the voters of Pennsylvania can make. And we trust them to make it.

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