Poll Position

Election Day is approaching fast. Pam runs down the races and discusses how the “merit selection of judges” could give us better candidates.

May 16th is Election Day. Election Day occurs two times a year although you would not know it by the historical turnout in non-Presidential election years.

Generally turnout is no greater than 20%.  I sincerely hope that given the current heightened interest, involvement, and awareness of citizens, our turnout on May 16th is closer to 50% (although in my opinion it should be 75% or higher).

On the 16th, we will elect a District Attorney, a Controller, and judges for the PA Supreme Court, Superior Court, Commonwealth Court, Common Pleas Court and Municipal Court.

Judge of Elections and Inspector of Elections will also be voted in each voting division.

This month I want to highlight the use of the merit selection of judges.

What is merit selection?  It is a system by which a commission chooses applicants on the basis of their qualifications and experience and not based on their social or political connections or how much money they can raise to run for a judgeship.

Currently, judges at all levels need to campaign for their positions and in order to campaign, money must be raised, and some of the largest contributors to judicial races are attorneys, who subsequently may appear before the successful judicial candidates in court.

Some may make the argument that we operate under a form of government that gives citizens choice and the choice of judge is no different than electing someone to Congress or the State Senate or State House.

The reality is, rarely do citizens have the time or background to evaluate judicial candidates and to evaluate their credentials sufficiently to make that choice.  For example, this year there are 7 Democrats and no Republican candidates on the ballot for two openings for Municipal Court and 30 Democrats and 1 Republican candidate on the ballot for nine openings on Common Pleas Court.

Personally, I utilize the Philadelphia Bar Association’s list of recommended candidates.  I am often surprised how many judicial candidates are endorsed by a political party who are ‘not recommended’ by the bar.   The Committee of Seventy website (www.seventy.org) is also a great resource to consult before voting.

Judges make life and death decisions that affect citizens, and they interpret laws. Citizens should want the most qualified candidates to sit on the bench at all levels of the judiciary.

I have co-sponsored legislation for the merit selection of judges for the appellate level courts- Commonwealth- Superior and PA Supreme.

Two thirds of the states select some or all of their judges under such a system.  I hope that during this period of heightened citizen involvement we see a groundswell to push through this legislation in Pennsylvania.

In the interim, there is an election coming up mid-month and it is imperative that all citizens vote and make the most knowledgeable decisions possible when casting their ballots.

See you at the polls!

Questions? Concerns? Visit Pam’s Philadelphia office at 6511 Ridge Avenue or call (215) 482-8726.

 

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