Gov. Rendell's open letter to Rep. Matthew Smith (D., Allegheny) reeks of classic partisan politics (Philly.com, Dec. 8). His reasons for supporting Smith's House Bill 1619, which would end contested judicial elections in Pennsylvania and establish a so-called merit selection system to select Pennsylvania's appellate judges, are transparent, if not poorly researched, when he purports that "establishing a merit selection system would squarely remove the influence of money in our judicial elections and ensure fairness in the judicial system." Does he forget that the candidate with the serious fund-raising disadvantage just won the race for the state's highest court? Or is that outcome only bothersome to him because Supreme Court Justice-elect Joan Orie Melvin is a Republican?
While a commission-based system to select state judges sounds enlightened, it actually removes citizens' ability to have a say in the otherwise insulated judicial branch. Moreover, approval ratings among states already using the product aren't good.
Governors in both major political parties have criticized this system in their own states, including Democratic Govs. Phil Bredesen in Tennessee and David Paterson in New York, and Republican Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida and former Gov. Matt Blunt of Missouri.
Unlike Rendell's endorsement, letting the public choose its own judges isn't a partisan move; it's common sense.