Gavel Grab

Advocates Preparing Push for Merit Selection in Pennsylvania

PennsylvaniaPennsylvania’s living past and present governors are a bipartisan group, and while they’ve had their differences, they agree on one thing: “Elections are not a good way to pick state court judges.”

That’s according to a Reading Eagle article about a proposal to replace the contested election of top judges in Pennsylvania with a merit-based, appointive system. The state’s current governor and his five living predecessors made their views public last month (see Gavel Grab), and their endorsement is still rippling across the state in news articles such as the Eagle’s.

Lynn Marks of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, a group championing the reform, told the newspaper that advocates are working on a public education effort about merit selection and hoping that this spring, the proposal will advance in the legislature.

When spending in last year’s Pennsylvania Supreme Court election for three seats soared past $16 million, it set a new record for documented spending in a state supreme court race. Two of the seats had become vacant because of scandal.

“It’s often the money comes from lawyers and potential litigants, because that’s who cares about the outcome of the cases,” noted Marks. Her group is a Justice at Stake partner organization.


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