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Hosted by: Scott LaMar



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Hosted by: Matt Paul and Mary Wilson



witf introduces 'Smart Talk Friday' radio program

Smart Talk: Should judges be appointed in PA?

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Oct 18, 2013 1:46 PM

What to look for on Smart Talk, Monday, October 21, 2013:

judge with gavel 300 x 170.jpg

Pennsylvanians will be electing a Superior Court judge on November 5th.  Voters will choose between Democrat Jack McVay Jr. and Republican Victor Stabile. 

Under state law, judicial candidates can not campaign in the traditional sense.  Candidates for the bench may not make promises or pledges.  So how are voters to make informed decisions?

Pennsylvania is one of only a handful of states where judges are elected rather than appointed.

Many government reformers would like to see that changed.  They say merit selection would ensure that only the most qualified, fair, and impartial become judges.

Opponents to merit selection say any appointment based system could be more political than making candidates win elections.

Lynn Marks, the executive director of the group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts will appear on Monday's Smart Talk program to discuss reforms she believes are needed.

Do you think Pennsylvania should continue to elect judges or would you like to a merit selection of judges?

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Comments: 8

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-10-21 08:47

    A listener emails these thoughts on term limits and ethical complaints:

    I had a civil suit case win which I was warned by a locally employed municipal employee that the judge favors local business people when it came to decisions.

    My case involved "shard metering". I had my proof, I cleaned the landlord’s clock. But my settlement was less than what I requested.

    And since I was supplying two other apartments, one could argue that there was never a way to accurately measure my individual consumption.

    Long story short, being a judge should be a community service of pride. Not an entrenched, singular way of thinking.

    If there are any legal people listening, feel free to contact me about my situation.

    • Suzanne Almeida img 2013-10-21 09:26

      Judges have the difficult job of deciding tricky cases based on the facts and the law before them.

      Pennsylvania is lucky to have some fantastic judges, but they reached the bench DESPITE of the system, not BECAUSE of it.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-10-21 08:48

    Ann writes in via email:

    How can we even consider what a judge feels about an issue when their only job is interpreting the laws as they exist relative to the case?

    Their strength in office is how well they interpret the laws and the law's intention.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-10-21 08:53

    Deborah emails:

    The election of judges, by its very nature, turns the process into a public and financial political process.

    The selection or appointment of judges allows attorney, who are qualified to evaluate candidates, to appoint the most appropriate candidates.

    I -- as a non-attorney lay person -- do not have the qualifications to determine the best person for the job.

    Like most of those who will vote, I am forced to take my best shot, putting those on the bench who are not necessarily the best candidates.

    • Suzanne Almeida img 2013-10-21 09:24

      Deborah,
      Thanks for your input! You're right, part of the problem with judicial elections is that the general public doesn't have sufficient information about the candidates or, often, a meaningful way to weigh the information that is available.

      It's important to note, however, that under merit selection, a citizens' nominating commission made up of BOTH lawyers and non-lawyers from across the Commonwealth would be responsible for sending the list to the Governor. Because both lawyers and nonlawyers use the courts, we want to make sure that the make up of the commission reflects the demographics of Pennsylvania.

  • earlybirdat2007 img 2013-10-21 09:29

    Here is a link to an article that discusses the case of undue influence over the West Virginia Supreme Court by an energy company (Massey Coal) through campaign contributions. This is the case that I referred to on the show today.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caperton_v._A.T._Massey_Coal_Co.

    Jim in Enola

    • Suzanne Almeida img 2013-10-21 15:15

      Thanks for your comments. Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts actually joined an amicus brief on this case. After a protracted process, the judge was forced to recuse.

      It's important to note, however, that this was an a-typical situation.

    • Suzanne Almeida img 2013-10-21 15:16

      Thanks for your comments. Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts actually joined an amicus brief on this case. After a protracted process, the judge was forced to recuse.

      It's important to note, however, that this was an a-typical situation.

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