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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: December 2, 2020 04:37 PM
From: Senator Anthony H. Williams and Sen. Maria Collett, Sen. Katie J. Muth, Sen. Lindsey M. Williams
To: All Senate members
Subject: Transparency for Judicial Nominations
In the near future, we will be introducing a bill to increase transparency and public participation in the selection of judicial nominees to vacant positions.

Serving as a judge is the most critical position in today’s democracy, with the power to impose sentences depriving life and liberty. As Pennsylvanians, we expect that the people sitting in judgment of our fellow citizens will be free from conflicts, fair-minded, and willing to consider both sides of a story to reach a just verdict. In order to maintain this trust, the process to appoint judges must reflect the same.

While this bill will not hinder the constitutional ability of the Governor to nominate individuals to positions, it will increase transparency about the process and allow for public comment on the qualifications of those who have applied for these incredibly important positions. Our legislation would require that the Office of General Counsel (OGC) post the names and application paperwork (with reasonable redaction of personal information) for each candidate who has applied for a judicial vacancy on its publicly-accessible website for a period of 30 days. This will allow ample time for the public to review applicants and provide comment through OGC for the Governor to consider when making their selection. Ultimately, the Governor will retain the sole privilege of nominating individuals for the consent of the Senate. Any public comment will also be provided to the majority and minority chairpersons of the committee conducting confirmation hearings to allow committee members to take public comment into account prior to voting on judicial nominees for appointed vacancies.

Following a nomination, the bill would also require a televised public hearing for nominees, with equal time reserved for questions from both the majority and minority parties. This will ensure that due consideration is given to each nominee by the Senate prior to a confirmation vote, and that the public can view and comment on that process as well.

An independent, accountable, and well-functioning judiciary is a central pillar of the rule of law. It is imperative to establish transparency in our state judicial system. This bill will enhance public trust and confidence. As elected public servants, we must do everything we can to ensure that the citizens of our Commonwealth have fair access to the process and the opportunity to have their voices heard. Please consider joining us in co-sponsoring this critical legislation. Thank you.

Introduced as SB22