PA Supreme Court Candidate Responds to Wecht’s Call for Support of 5-Point Plan

Cheryl-Lynn-AllenOn Monday, we reported that Pennsylvania Supreme Court candidate David Wecht had issued a five-point plan to clean up the judiciary. The Democratic candidate and current Pennsylvania Superior Court judge has received his first rebuttal from the competition.

Republican candidate Cheryl Allen, who also serves on the Superior Court, has released her input on Wecht’s proposal to the candidates.

“While the spirit of Judge Wecht’s five-point plan is appreciated,” Allen said.

“Restoring faith in the Court is not so complicated a matter.”

Just as a refresher, Wecht’s five points are as follows:

  1. Absolute ban on all gifts to judges
  2. Tightened Anti-Nepotism Policy; Sunset Employment of Judges’ Relative
  3. Require judges to rule on the record in writing on all motions for recusal
  4. Mandated ethics courses for all judicial candidates
  5. Television broadcast of court proceedings

Allen has stated that she agrees wholeheartedly with the complete ban on gifts but disagrees on the need for cameras in the courtroom. She contend that this won’t necessarily curb corruption.

“Backroom deals don’t happen in the courtroom,” Allen said, noting that certain proceedings require confidentiality to protect victims and juveniles.

When the State Supreme Court implemented the current anti-nepotism policy, the regulation was not retroactive, which meant that relatives who were currently court-employed were grandfathered in and could retain their positions. Allen favors Wecht’s stance on the reform of this law.

“A true effort to curb favoritism should apply to all, including relatives of sitting judges and justices and should be implemented throughout the court system,” Allen said.

While Wecht would like to require judges to “rule on the record in writing” for all motions of recusal, Allen does not disagree but said that it’s only part of the answer. She said that judges should be more diligent about recusing themselves when appropriate.

“If I golf with you last week, and you appear before me this week, do the relevant parties have a right to know? Absolutely,” Allen said.

Although Allen embraced parts of Wecht’s five-point plan, she stressed that all judges have previously taken courses on ethics — either as lawyers or judges — rendering any more programs irrelevant.

Allen recognized the “recent events” to which Wecht referred but offered a dissenting opinion on the matter.

“The problem is not that judges don’t know, or haven’t been taught,” Allen said.

“Corruption occurs when a judge makes a conscious choice not to do what’s right.”

The Republican candidate admitted that Wecht raised some good points but she believes in a less-drastic approach to rehabilitating the state’s judicial image.

“At this level of Government, it’s not about politics,” Allen said.

“It’s about doing the right thing regardless of whether it’s popular or politically expedient.”

“That’s how we restore faith in the court, and I stand firmly beside any and all who are so committed.”

11 Responses

  1. The five points do not go far enough.
    First, there are appellate rules that need changed. In particular, one requires a “concise” statement of what is being appealed but does not specify the number of pages and also gives insufficient time to complete it. The judge whose decisions are being appealed determines if the “concise” statement is too long. Is that problematic? Second, there is nothing in his five points to prevent a defense firm donating money to an intermediate party who then donates to the judge’s reelection campaign. The judge then makes judgments favorable to the defense firm. Is that justice?

  2. Roger that’s quite a statement to put in someone else’s mouth. Wecht didn’t call for mandatory courses in “consistent rules that cover nepotism, recusal and transparency”and Allen didn’t call such things irrelevant. In fact, she’s not quoted as saying anything is “irrelevant.” Those were the writer’s words. Allen’s point is salient even if it sails right over your head. None of those whose behavior was unbefitting of the court acted because they lacked training, awareness or understanding of ethics. If that’s lost on you, please, don’t ever run for office. Please.

  3. I think rebuttal is a bit harsh. I believe Judge Allen is just starting a discussion on the points that Judge Wecht published. It was thoughtful and with intelligent incite. While I’m a democrat, when it comes to judges I do not view party affiliation that strongly. I look for qualifications above all else. Judge Allen, along with Judge Wecht, both impress me. Hopefully the campaigns will stay cordial, but that is probably wishful thinking. Especially if Judge Covey stays in the race.

  4. Judge Allen’s comments are disingenuous. While it is true that a bad judge is a bad judge, it is not true that written, consistent rules that cover nepotism, recusal and transparency are “irrelevant” because you take a course in ethics. Hogwash. Codify these rules and then you have a basis for enforcement. Great job Judge Wecht!

  5. Cameras would show the public which judges are awake and which ones have actually read the cases before they show up to hear arguments. I have sat through an entire day of arguments at the Superior Court without hearing a peep out of Judge Allen. To be fair, she isn’t the only judge that appears unprepared for court!

  6. Bono you took a wild read on this. Allen is simply saying cameras in the courtroom won’t curb corruption. She’s saying that’s not typically where the bad deeds go down. McCaffrey didn’t exchange those emails in the courtroom and Melvin didn’t arrange to use taxpayer funded employees to campaign for her in the courtroom. Would cameras have deterred these judge’s behavior? I think not. That’s the point. Same with the comment about required ethics classes. Neither Orie Melvin nor McCaffrey were acting out of a lack of understanding about right and wrong. They took ethics classes when they were lawyers. Did they forget what they learned? They needed refreshed so they could act right? So while Wecht’s efforts are noble, I think Allen’s proposal is much simpler. How do you restore the judiciary’s credibility? Judges gotta do the right thing.

  7. David Wecht’s proposal to allow cameras in the courtroom will afford transparency of the judiciary to the taxpayer. What is Cheryl Allen wanting to hide from the tax payers by prohibiting cameras in the courtroom? Wecht’s proposals are positive while Allen fails to come up with even one proposal of her own to improve the judiciary. David Wecht deserves to be endorsed by the Democratic Party and elected as a Justice of the Supreme Court.

  8. Chris P I think you’re talking about a study done by University of Hong Kong and IUP. They studied all State Legislatures and developed a corruption index. PA came out in the top five corrupt. Shocking right?

  9. Judge Allen makes some good points. The problem is that the corruption seems to always be here. A recent study revealed that Pennsylvania is one of the most corrupt States in the Country. It came to light again last week with the Republican Party endorsement process and the PBA judicial evaluation commission. Unbelievable!!

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