HARRISBURG - Under mounting pressure to speak out on the issues in this year's election campaigns, candidates for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reflected on the court's track record - and their own - in response to questions from a Philadelphia law journal.
Three of the six candidates who completed the Legal Intelligencer's questionnaire acknowledged a desire to take another shot at writing at least one of the legal opinions they have issued in lower courts.
All six said they would at least consider allowing TV and still cameras to record oral arguments before the state's highest court.
Most of the candidates declined to second-guess the court's September decision on the politically thorny government pay-raise case.
But Republican Michael Krancer politely disagreed with the most controversial aspect of the ruling, saying he probably would not have supported restoring pay raises for 1,000 judges after they were repealed along with raises for legislators and top executive-branch officials.
The majority opinion upheld portions of the July 2005 pay-raise law authorizing the judicial raises and struck down parts of the November 2005 law that repealed them, saying it violated a constitutional ban on diminishing judicial salaries under most circumstances.
Krancer said he would likely have overturned the original pay-raise law because of problems in the way it was handled in the legislature.
Other candidates declined to answer the question - "The pay-raise decision: Who do you think got it right, Justice Castille or Justice Saylor?" - or at least to tackle it head-on. Justice Ronald D. Castille wrote the majority opinion; Justice Thomas G. Saylor wrote a dissenting opinion that objected to the restoration of the judges' raises.
"The Supreme Court's duty, under the Pennsylvania Constitution, was to decide the case, and the Supreme Court performed that duty," said Maureen Lally-Green, a Superior Court judge who, like Krancer, is endorsed by the Republican State Committee for nomination in the May 15 primary.
"Justices Castille and Saylor both raised valid points in their decisions. As a judge on the Court of Common Pleas, it is not within my province to criticize the opinions of higher court judges," wrote Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Paul P. Panepinto.
"The majority opinion of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court constitutes the law of the land and expresses a sound constitutional analysis," said Debra Todd, a Superior Court judge whom the Democratic State Committee has endorsed.
On the question of whether cameras should be permitted in courtrooms, particularly for oral arguments before the Supreme Court, Democrat C. Darnell Jones, Philadelphia County's president judge, answered in one word - "YES!"
Three of the candidates said there were no opinions they wish they could take back and revise, but Philadelphia County Judge Willis Berry, a Democratic candidate, said there are many.
"Probably all of them," he said, "because hindsight is always 20/20."
Superior Court Judge Seamus P. McCaffery, a Democrat endorsed by the state committee, declined to complete the questionnaire.
Pennsylvania's highest court yesterday upheld the Supreme Court candidacy of Republican Michael L. Krancer.
Krancer's petition had been challenged by Jaime J. Hughes-Har-bson of Philadelphia, a retired employee of the Philadelphia Family Court. Hughes-Harbson wanted Krancer, the former chairman and chief judge of the state Environmental Hearing Board, removed from the ballot on grounds that his statement of financial interests was incomplete.
Krancer, of Bryn Mawr, had listed the state government as his only income source in 2006. His environmental board salary was $127,000. At a March hearing, Krancer acknowledged that he and his wife had more than $10,000 in income from capital gains, interest and dividends last year, as well as a car loan that he co-signed.
In rejecting the challenge, Commonwealth Court Senior Judge James R. Kelley said Krancer reasonably believed that he did not need to disclose information about jointly held income or debts.
The high court upheld the ruling.
SOURCE: Associated Press