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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: December 1, 2020 03:46 PM
From: Representative Russ Diamond
To: All House members
Subject: Regional Appellate Court Districts
In the near future I will be introducing legislation (2019-20 HB196) to amend the PA Constitution to change the way Pennsylvania elects appellate court judges. Specifically, my legislation would divide the Commonwealth into nine (9) Commonwealth Court districts, fifteen (15) Superior Court districts, and seven (7) Supreme Court districts.
These districts would be defined by the General Assembly following the redistricting principles found in our Constitution, requiring populations as equal as possible in each district with compact and contiguous geographic boundaries, and would comport with the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. Candidates for appellate seats would be required to reside in the district they seek to represent on the court.
Currently, 53.8 percent (21 of 39) of appellate court seats are held by residents of just two counties containing just 21.8 percent of Pennsylvania’s population. Since 1969, 67 percent of all Supreme Court Justices (22 of 33), 59 percent of all Superior Court Judges (45 of 76) 42 percent of all Commonwealth Court Judges (18 of 43) have been occupied by residents of those same two counties.
Pennsylvania is a diverse Commonwealth, and our appellate courts ought to reflect that diversity. This proposal will also go far in improving the chances that voters can identify with candidates for appellate court seats.
This constitutional amendment was passed by the House and Senate during the 2019-20 legislative session and was advertised accordingly. Introduction during the 2021-22 legislative session initiates the process for second passage required for constitutional amendments under Article XI of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Upon passage by the House and Senate a second time, amendments are then submitted to the voters for approval and adoption.
I urge you to join me in preserving the right to elect judges and justices, and providing for diversity on Pennsylvania's appellate courts, by co-sponsoring this legislation.
A map depicting current and historic distribution of these seats on our appellate courts, as well as a copy of HB196 from the 2019-20 legislative session is attached.
PREVIOUS CO-SPONSORS: Diamond, Bernstine, Causer, Dush, Emrick, Everett, Irvin, James, Kauffman, Keefer, Mackenzie, Millard, B. Miller, Pickett, Rader, Rapp, Roae, Rothman, Ryan, Saylor, Warner And Zimmerman

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Introduced as HB38