Monday, January 4, 2010
Over the course of this year’s campaign for state Supreme Court, both candidates questioned whether anyone should be running for the bench at all. Sponsors of legislation abolishing statewide judicial elections and imposing a merit selection system say the answer is “no.” They contend merit selection for judges is better saying judicial candidates breed cynicism when they appear at partisan rallies and solicit money for campaigns. Robert Heim, the chairman of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, points out Judges Joan Orie Melvin and Jack Panella raised more than three million dollars during this year’s Supreme Court race. He says, “Most of it came from lawyers. Lawyers who are going to have their matters entertained and judged by the people to whom they were contributing money.“ Heim endorses a package of bills creating a fourteen-member commission that would screen judicial candidates for each opening, and then recommend “two to five” prospective appointees to the governor. The governor would then select a nominee and send his or her name to the Senate for confirmation. The legislation would require a constitutional amendment, which would need to pass in two consecutive legislative sessions, and then be approved by Pennsylvania’s voters.