Gavel Grab

Current, Former PA Governors Urge Merit Selection of Judges

justice-scalesPennsylvania’s current governor and his five living predecessors, a bipartisan group, are all supporting a proposed switch from contested elections of top state judges to their merit-based appointment.

“Judges can’t be independent if they have to raise some sum of money,” said former Gov. Ed Rendell, in a conference call hosted by Justice at Stake, according to the Patriot-News. “It’s a bad system and a system our citizens can’t have much confidence” in.

Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, a JAS partner organization that has championed a merit-based selection system, moderated the Friday call with three of the leaders. Those supporting reform are Gov. Tom Wolf and former Govs. Rendell and Dick Thornburgh, Tom Ridge, Mark Schweiker and Tom Corbett.

In the Scranton Times-Tribune, an editorial commended these leaders and agreed with their stance. “There is no system that would completely eliminate politics from the selection process. Merit appointment would, however, end the current spectacle, which invites conflicts of interest and saps confidence in the courts,” it said.

A proposal, applauded by Justice at Stake, is before the legislature (see Gavel Grab). The editorial concluded, “The governors are on the mark. The Legislature should advance the amendment so that appellate judges can worry about judicial business rather than politics and its attendant fundraising.” Other coverage included Philly.com and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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