Re: "Pa. voters need a voice in selecting their judges," Thursday:
Merit selection, which combines features of the elective and appointive systems, does remove money from the judicial selection process. The current electoral system requires appellate court candidates to campaign and advertise across Pennsylvania. This requires money, which comes from lawyers, businesses, unions, and others who frequently litigate in the appellate courts. Other big spenders are the political parties. This year, the winning and losing candidates for state Supreme Court spent huge amounts. Merit selection eliminates all this spending and, most importantly, stops the flow of money from lawyers to the campaigns of judges likely to rule on their cases.
With merit selection, citizens participate as members of the nominating commission. The public would present information to the commission about judicial applicants; share opinions about the recommended candidates with the governor; and share opinions about the governor's nominee with the Senate during the confirmation process. After an initial four-year term (six years earlier than under the current system), the public would vote in a retention election on whether the judge should remain on the bench for a full 10-year term. This would occur every 10 years until the judge reached the mandatory age of retirement or chose not to stand for retention.
Pennsylvania can change the way we select appellate judges, but only if the people vote to amend the constitution. It is time to let Pennsylvanians make this decision.
Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts