Some PA Lawmakers Steering Away from Judicial Elections

Pennsylvania lawmakers have previously tried and failed to amend the state’s system of judicial elections. Now, with suspended Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin facing trial for corruption charges, legislators are again proposing to stop electing judges.

Under a proposed constitutional amendment, a new 15 member commission would send a short list of judicial candidates to the governor, who would then make appointments from that list for openings on the state Supreme Court, Superior Court and Commonwealth Court, says a Watchdog article.

Seven members of the commission will come from the public, but there are no details in the bill as to how they will be selected. Four others will be appointed by the General Assembly and the last four by the governor, the article says.

State Sen. Anthony Williams argues that merit selection would maintain the integrity of the Pennsylvania courts.

“As citizens, we have to have utmost confidence in our judiciary, and right now, that’s simply not the case,” Williams said.

In a Newsworks article, Executive Director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts Lynn Marks says that Orie Melvin’s trial demonstrates the corruption that can come from judicial elections.

“Judges are supposed to make decisions based on the facts and the law, not based on how their campaign supporters want them to rule. They criss-cross the state raising tons of money, all while promising to be unbiased when they are elected,” Marks said.

Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts is a Justice at Stake partner organization.

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