|Posted:||January 30, 2019 09:53 AM|
|From:||Senator Wayne Langerholc, Jr. and Sen. Anthony H. Williams|
|To:||All Senate members|
|In the near future, we will introduce a constitutional amendment to change the way statewide appellate court judges are chosen by replacing partisan judicial elections with a merit selection system.
Merit selection is a hybrid elective-appointive system, based on geographical areas. This change would apply only to the three statewide appellate courts: Supreme, Superior, and Commonwealth Courts. Judges on the courts of common pleas, magisterial district courts, and Philadelphia Municipal Court would still be elected as they are now.
In a merit selection system, a bipartisan citizens’ nominating commission of lawyers and non-lawyers selected by elected officials reviews applicants’ qualifications and recommends a short list to the Governor for nomination. After Senate confirmation, the judge sits for a four-year term before standing for nonpartisan retention election for a full 10-year term, and then every 10 years thereafter.
Merit selection is a better way to ensure a fair, impartial, and qualified judiciary. Merit selection focuses on qualifications: legal experience, reputation for ethical behavior, honesty, fairness and good temperament. Appellate court judges would no longer be chosen based on their ballot position, campaign fundraising abilities, or where they live. Judicial candidates would no longer be required to engage in a process that leaves them seemingly beholden to wealthy lawyers and special interest groups who might appear before them in court. Removing money from our courtrooms helps to increase public confidence in the courts.
The Appellate Court Nominating Commission would consist of 13 members: