Letter to the editor: Courts must remain above fray
In January our Supreme Court drew our congressional districts. In February the U.S. Supreme Court told the General Assembly that our court could do that. In March and April our Senate held hearings on how to design a citizens' independent districting commission so neither politicians nor courts would draw legislative districts. A compromise Senate Bill 22 was offered on May 22, which sailed through the subcommittees and was ready to be passed.
On June 12 a surprise rider was introduced which changed the structure of our appellate court system. All superior, commonwealth and Supreme Court justices would now be elected from districts designed by the citizens' commission. Appellate courts would no longer be judicial, they would be representative. The basic principle that, especially appellate courts, should not be political bodies was distorted.
The Founding Fathers designed the House of Lords and the appellate courts to be above the political fray. The rider to SB22 must be defeated. We must retain an objective, professional appellate court system.
If SB22 and its independent citizens' redistricting commission fails, the legislative districts will remain exactly as they are through 2021. The congressional districts will be those drawn by the court in January, and the General Assembly districts will remain as the Legislature drew them in 2011. Nothing changes. We will have lost the independent citizens' redistricting commission, but we will have retained an independent judiciary. The price demanded for the commission is now too high.
The Rev. Roger Thomas
Harmony Township, Beaver County
The writer is chairman of the Pennsylvania Committee for the Analysis and Reform of Our Criminal System.