LETTER: Governors advocate merit selection for judges
Pennsylvanians have just emerged from a judicial election with a historic number of vacancies and a historic amount of spending and level of vitriol in attack ads. Well over $16 million was spent by groups and individuals with a vested interest in getting their chosen candidates elected.
As leaders of this commonwealth, we are coming together across the political spectrum to urge you to support merit selection of statewide judges when the proposal comes before you. It would not affect the election of magisterial district judges, judges on the courts of common pleas or Philadelphia Municipal Court judges.
The 2015 judicial election season was an inauspicious start to what should be a new era of spotless judicial ethics following years of public scandal. This was not the candidates’ fault: they must run within the broken system of expensive, partisan elections.
Merit selection is a commonsense solution used in many states. In fact, we are one of a small number of states that elects all our judges in partisan election. Merit selection is not perfect — no system is — but it is a vast improvement over our current system where judges are often selected based on fundraising prowess, name recognition, ballot position or party affiliation. Merit selection would write qualifications into the Constitution and ensure that our judges meet more than the minimum standards.
Changing the way Pennsylvanians choose appellate court judges requires a constitutional amendment. Your vote in favor of the merit selection proposal will move this issue one step closer to coming before Pennsylvania voters in a public referendum.
Nine out of 10 of Pennsylvanians want the opportunity to reevaluate how they choose statewide judges, but we need your support to bring this issue to the people. Your vote empowers voters to decide for themselves whether there is a better way. We urge your support. The time is right and the need urgent. Thank you for your consideration.
As we begin a new year, our representatives should take judicial election reform seriously and move this proposal forward. We encourage voters to reach out to their representatives and ask them to make merit selection for appellate court judges a priority.
GOVS. TOM WOLF, TOM CORBETT, ED RENDELL, MARK SCHWEIKER, TOM RIDGE AND DICK THORNBURGH