State Bar President Issues Editorial on Upcoming Retention Election

September 14, 2007

Dear Editor:

The advocacy group, PACleanSweep, has irresponsibly called on Pennsylvania's voters to reject all judges up for retention election this November without any consideration of their experience, qualifications or judicial records. This grassroots campaign, if successful, would gut our justice system, throw away hundreds of years of judicial experience, undermine the quality of justice in our Pennsylvania courts and cause severe and lasting damage to our judicial system.

Pennsylvania's voters should judge the judges fairly, based on their records of judicial service and their qualifications and fitness to serve. Merit retention is our state's nonpartisan system for the voting public to pass on a judge's service and qualifications by a yes-or-no vote. It is a constitutional process that was designed to keep partisan politics and political pressure out of the process, while allowing the voters to pass on their performance after a 10-year term of judicial service.

Voters should evaluate judges on their full judicial record and not on a single legislative act or judicial decision. Judges should be evaluated on qualities such as integrity, competence, temperament, preparation for court, courtesy, attentiveness and the quality of their opinions and adherence to the rule of law. We encourage everyone to use the ratings of the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Judicial Evaluation Commission and to visit the Web site to get meaningful and credible information they need to make informed and responsible decisions about our judicial candidates.

Judges should not be ousted from office as a group just because some disgruntled advocacy group says so. This misguided effort to 'clean' house would make a mess of our courts and would threaten severe, lasting damage to our court system. We urge all citizens to reject the radical, unfair concept of ousting all judges, and we call upon Pennsylvanians to make their own informed choices on Election Day based on the merits of each judge individually.

Andrew F. Susko