The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the seven-member body that’s older than our nation itself, will soon be gaining its first new addition since 2017. With Justice Thomas G. Saylor — the court’s most senior member — facing mandatory retirement at the end of the year, voters have a choice between two qualified jurists to fill the seat that he’s held for nearly a quarter-century.
It’s hardly an overstatement to say that the newest justice will join the court at a pivotal moment for democracy in Pennsylvania. In recent years, the justices have ordered Pennsylvania’s congressional map to be redrawn, issued rulings on absentee balloting, and weighed in on whether COVID-19 lockdowns violate the Second Amendment. Privacy rights for registered voters, the new legislative maps, and abortion access are among the issues likely to be considered by the court in the near future; with that in mind, it’s critical that the court’s decisions continue to serve the cause of a most just commonwealth.
Considering the gravity and importance of these issues, Judge Maria McLaughlin is the right choice for this seat.
A Philadelphian and first-generation college student, McLaughlin is passionate about the rights of women and children, which were often a focus of her work as a Family Court judge in the city. Her election would create for the first time a majority of women on a court that has historically been dominated by men.
McLaughlin talks proudly about serving on the Court of Common Pleas while also being a single mother, an experience that she says informs her commitment to public service. While McLaughlin, like nearly all judicial candidates, avoids talking in specifics about issues that may come before her court, her record in Family Court and the Pennsylvania Superior Court, where she’s served since 2018, offers a strong indication of how she would perform on the bench. Furthermore, in the Democratic primary earlier this year, the Philadelphia Bar Association gave McLaughlin its top rating of “highly recommended.”
Her opponent, Judge Kevin Brobson, is a smart, capable, and respected jurist who has served as president judge of the Commonwealth Court and earned our endorsement in May’s primary. We are pleased that Pennsylvania Republicans selected Brobson over his opponents, both of whom spoke at a March rally that promoted far-right causes.
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While Brobson would add ideological diversity to the court, several of his decisions on past cases — including the ruling he authored to exclude ballots in an Allegheny County state Senate race last year — make supporting his candidacy in the general election difficult for this board.
Brobson’s record reflects his conservative viewpoint on the law, one that may lead to opinions that place unacceptable burdens on the right to vote, scale back regulations on gun ownership, and chip away at the right to access an abortion. As much as we admire Brobson’s ability to put legal terms in clear language and his record of collegiality on the Commonwealth Court, these decisions were too concerning to ignore.
With two strong candidates, the correct choice is the one that Pennsylvanians can most clearly count on to safeguard the rights we value most. In this election, that’s Judge Maria McLaughlin.