Pennsylvania lawmakers are seeking a constitutional amendment to end the state's system of electing appellate judges, instead allowing the governor to appoint them based on recommendations from independent commission.
The bipartisan bill, introduced by Democratic state Sen. Anthony Williams and Republican Sen. Richard Alloway, not only would end contested elections for appellate judges, but also elections for the state Supreme Court, commonwealth, and superior courts, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer
The plan calls for the governor to pick a nominee from a list of five candidates, which would be forwarded by a nonpartisan nominating commission. The nominee would then be subject to Senate confirmation.
After completing one term, the judge would have to seek the public's approval, through an uncontested retention election.
Williams said he proposed the bill because citizens don't have the "utmost confidence in our judiciary,” and “we cannot afford our high courts, our final arbiters of law, to succumb to forces of corruption."
A similar plan failed in the state House last year, after trial lawyers, pro-life activists, and others opposed it.
The current bill must pass both chambers of the legislature in two consecutive sessions and then be approved by voters, because it would amend the state constitution.
There is some support in the legal profession, though, for eliminating judgeship elections across Pennsylvania, the Inquirer reported. Several prominent defense lawyers, for example, claim that electing judges can lead to judicial misconduct, given the increasing amount spent on campaigns and support sought by judicial candidates from special interest groups.
Other states as well have from time to time sought to change their system of electing judges, usually following court corruption cases tied to judicial campaigns.
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