Reader Poll: Should PA Have Judicial Elections?

PA Supreme CourtThe third branch of government was intended to be the only one that was unelected.

Yet in 39 states, including Pennsylvania, at least some judges are chosen through elections.

In fact, PA is one of only seven states that subject their Supreme Court Justices to partisan contests.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has led a crusade against this practice for years and John Oliver recently dedicated a lengthy segment of his HBO program Last Week Tonight to the issue (with a cameo from ex-Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary).

The Keystone State has been through a number of judicial scandals recently, from the Joan Orie Melvin ordeal to the infamous McCaffery-Castille rivalry.

The appointment process hasn’t been flawless either, with one of Gov. Wolf’s choices being forced to withdraw. Now it appears the State Supreme Court will have two empty seats for the rest of the year.

In a way, though, the judicial elections act as an out for the Governor and the legislature to avoid a lengthy and contentious confirmation process, leaving the state’s highest court underrepresented for months.

So, dear readers, we leave the question up to you.

Should Pennsylvania’s judges be appointed or elected?


  • Appointed (52%)
  • Elected (48%)

Total Voters: 881

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February 24th, 2015 | Posted in Features, Front Page Stories, Harrisburg, Poll, Top Stories | 9 Comments

9 thoughts on “Reader Poll: Should PA Have Judicial Elections?”

  1. Jeanne Doyle says:

    Judicial appointments by bi-partison committees comprised of representatives from the legal profession and others. A true democracy has to have an independent judiciary.

  2. Rick says:

    Need to find a better way, perhaps formation of appointment committees made up equally of members from the legal field, elected officials, and ordinary citizens. The appointment committee could be appointed by the sitting governor, with terms that expire at different times, maybe at 2/4/6 year intervals, with 1/3 of the group leaving each cycle. Set the time frame so that the judicial appointments overlap traditional election cycles (maybe 3 or 5 year appointments, then require ALL judges run for retention, maybe at 8 to 10 year cycles. We’ll never get politics completely out of the process, but why should we? The current process is, at best, a little slimy.

  3. Brad Kirsch says:

    If any of us believe that judges don’t engage in politics in either type of system then we don’t understand the nature of politics at all.

    I would prefer the ability of the people to meet judicial candidate’s as they go out to solicit votes gives the ordinary people some assurance that they at least understand the average man.

    Thus, allowing the average citizen access to the judges before they are elected assures some degree of democratic rather than an oligarchical structure to elect them to office.

    That the people have some say in such important matters while it may not work perfectly at least gives them a bit of a chance at some equity in the process.

    Why do we assume that the people are ignorant of the need to gauge the quality of the person as well as the learned behavior of lawyers with other lawyers?

  4. Pete C says:

    You are foolish if you believe that appointing judges makes the system any less political it only changes the political stage. Why do you think Governor nominated a candidate from each party to fill the current vacancies on the Supreme Court. Imperfect as it may seem I would rather put my faith in the voters(people)not the politicians to select our judges.

  5. Kevin Harden says:

    If merit selection is a myth, why are there all of these complaints that federal judges are unqualified and that they lack judicial independence. No wait — that only happens in state court.

  6. Denny Bonavita says:

    “Merit” selection means being selected by the same lawmakers that have their huge slush fund, regularly get sent to prison, etc. For all their faults, I’d rather trust voters than legislators.

  7. RealisticTeacher says:

    When judges are elected, they are become politicians… I’d rather have someone bound to the law and consitutiton rather than the whims of the general public.

  8. JP Shaffer says:

    So called merit selection is a myth. It is simply a political process that is carried out by an oligarchy of some type, and is less transparent than the current process. Under election, the people get the judiciary they select and deserve. The abysmal pay of judges is the real problem. Every time I try to get attorneys with demonstrated knowledge, ability, and integrity to run for the bench, they reply that they are unwilling to foist the pay cut on their families.

  9. Sue Lawruk says:

    I don’t want politicians picking our judges. The people should do this job.

Comments are closed.