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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: March 1, 2018 02:22 PM
From: Representative Stephen Barrar
To: All House members
Subject: Updating the MDJ Section of the Pennsylvania Election Code
In the very near future, I plan to introduce legislation which will allow Magisterial District Judges to file a certificate of nomination for re-election, instead of having to collect 100 or more signatures from each party, which is the current requirement to cross-file. This small change would only apply to incumbent judges; non-incumbents would still be required to collect signatures in order to get on the ballot.

This change is long overdue and quite necessary for a number of reasons, chief amongst them being the safety of our MDJs and their families. MDJs constitute the grassroots level of our court system and in many cases, these are the first – and sometimes, the only – judges Pennsylvanians will ever see. Requiring them to petition for signatures often leads to dangerous encounters with people they have had to judge in court, or their family members. In a recent study by EB Jacobs and Penn State University, nearly 37% of PA District Court Judges reported some sort of hostile behavior while they were out petitioning, and 10% of those judges experienced physical harm and threats.

No other level of Pennsylvania’s Unified Judicial System requires judges to acquire signatures when seeking another term. In order for judges to remain as apolitical as possible, by law, each can only engage in political activity during a re-election period. This change would encourage this behavior, and would prevent the appearance of impropriety or unlawful engagement in politics.

It is important to note that this change is not a retention bill. This legislation would simply add another option in which an incumbent Magisterial District Judge can get back on the ballot. Furthermore, this change would come at no cost to the taxpayer.

We cannot wait for something tragic or unlawful to happen to act on this important issue. The safety of our MDJs depends on our immediate action. Judges should not have to endanger their lives, nor those who support them, in order to seek another term.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as HB2319