The two candidates for Pennsylvania’s top court met for a debate in Philadelphia yesterday where the both tied to focus on broad issues.
Supreme Court candidates Joan Orie Melvin and Jack Panella both boast long, impressive resumes, and have shied away from stating their specific opinions on matters that may appear before the bench. Melvin, the Republican candidate, provided her definition of a term that gets used quite a bit during discussions about judicial politics. “Judicial activism is where a judge substitutes their own personal opinion and own personal agenda, instead of following the Legislature, who enacts the laws based upon the will of the people. So a judicial activist is when you have, essentially a handful of black robes who impose their own personal agenda.” Said Melvin. Panella, the Democrat, says he doesn’t think judges should insert their own beliefs and agendas into rulings, either. Both took issue with the fact they have to campaign for the Supreme Court. Panella says ideally, a nonpartisan panel would select judges, though he says granting that right to legislators and the Governor would weaken the judiciary as an independent branch. Despite attention given to the Supreme Court’s role in legislative redistricting, Panella says he or Melvin would play “a very limited role” in determining the issue, noting it would first go to a legislative panel. He says, “Then it’s up to the Supreme Court to place a Supreme Court Justice in. What would be the chances that it would be one of the two of us, being low justice on the totem poll? It would be a decision made by the Chief Justice and the other justices.”