Citing state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin's public-corruption conviction while advocating for a group called Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, four former governors' support for so-called “merit selection” of state appellate judges proves only that bad ideas know no partisan bounds.
Their rationale for denying Pennsylvanians the right to choose such judges via the ballot box is rich in hubris.
First, say Republicans Tom Ridge and Dick Thornburgh and Democrats Ed Rendell and George Leader, voters are too ignorant to make informed choices. But if that's the case, why have elections for any public offices at all?
Second is what the four consider lawyers' undue influence, via campaign contributions, on elected appellate judges they later appear before in court. But how would entrusting selection to a commission of gubernatorial and legislative appointees, some of whom would have to be lawyers, plus others nominated by groups — again, think lawyers — reduce that influence?
The Judicial Crisis Network's Carrie Severino says merit selection would leave judicial choice up to “an unaccountable commission dominated by lawyers and special interest groups.” And, she reminds, Tennessee, Kansas and Oklahoma are moving to end merit selection.
Merit selection would require amending the Pennsylvania Constitution. And that would require, first, passage of the proposed amendment in two consecutive sessions of the state Legislature, then, approval in a public referendum.
Oh, the irony there, eh?
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.