Pennsylvania voters will go to the polls this coming Tuesday to choose their state judges in their traditional odd-year, contested, partisan elections. Here are some of the late-breaking stories from across the state:
- The Philadelphia Democratic City Committee has had a rough few days. First, it endorsed ten candidates for what it thought was ten open positions on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas (the state trial court). But the state Supreme Court subsequently cut the number of open seats to nine, leaving the Committee with one too many endorsements. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Bar Association announced its intent to hand out flyers with its own endorsements — based on neutral evaluations, not party affiliation — at the same times and locations as the Democratic City Committee.
- The Philadelphia Inquirer has the lowdown on every judicial candidate in the city (Democrat and Republican) here.
- 24 candidates are vying for six judgeships in Northampton County. The job pays $90,000 per year, requires the judge to perform weddings and handle traffic tickets. A law degree is not required.
- Candidates in a single trial court race in Westmoreland County have collectively spent more than $268,000 — nearly twice what the job pays.
- As we reported earlier this week, Martin Sheen continues to stump for one judge seeking reelection. Nothing particularly wrong with that, although Sheen has seen fit to blur the endorsement lines between his real identity and that of the president he once played on TV.
- An Erie newspaper has editorialized against the current election system, noting that it is “no way to staff a competent bench.”
- And the Reading Eagle offers an editorial endorsement of the Pennsylvania Bar’s candidate evaluations.
Finally, in a very positive development, the proposed legislation to shift Pennsylvania from partisan judicial elections to a merit selection system gained some traction when the House Judiciary Committee approved a measure to place the issue before the voters. There is still a long road ahead, but it can be done. And voters in other states have proven more than capable of understanding the benefits of merit selection.
Tuesday should be interesting.