HARRISBURG (March 18, 2008) - Pennsylvania Bar Association President Andrew F. Susko today issued the following statement in support of merit selection legislation:
"The Pennsylvania Bar Association has long supported merit selection of appellate judges through a commission-based appointment process. With the amount of money ever increasing in our judicial campaigns in Pennsylvania, the time has come to join the majority of states that provide for an appointive process based on judicial qualifications followed by swift voter input in the form of retention elections.
Name recognition, geography, ballot position and party affiliation continue to influence many voters in the election of Pennsylvania's appellate judges. An appointive process, however, would more effectively focus the initial selection of judges on the candidate's qualifications to be a judge, i.e. integrity, competence, experience, fairness, temperament, the quality of their judicial opinions and the adherence to the rule of law. The partisan election of judges undermines public understanding of the appropriate role of a judge, which is one of an impartial decider of cases based on the facts and merits of a case and on the law as it exists and not based on political party affiliation.
Public election of judges requires candidates to raise money. When judges solicit campaign contributions from lawyers, there is an appearance that the judge may be indebted to the lawyer, which undermines public confidence in our judicial system. An influx of money and negative advertising from groups outside of Pennsylvania into judicial campaigns adds another dimension to the public's misconception that justice can be bought in the Keystone State.
By ensuring voter participation in the selection of judges through retention elections, the public will have continued substantial input in our judicial system while protecting its impartiality and fairness."