Things not said in Supreme Court debate

The competition for the three vacant seats on Pennsylvania's Supreme Court has been largely quiet thus far, but it is the only election in the country this fall involving a state's high court. (CHRIS PALMER/Inquirer Staff)

I guess judges are circumspect by nature.

How else to explain the unsaid stuff during a 90-minute debate Wednesday evening featuring seven current judges running for three vacancies on the state Supreme Court?

On the issue of the ongoing porno email probe that cost the court one justice last year when Philly's Seamus McCaffery resigned and that now threatens another justice, Michael Eakin, all the candidates said the high court shouldn't investigate itself.

Why? Because there's a Judicial Conduct Board and a Court of Judicial Discipline for that and, well, other reasons.

Democratic Superior Court Judge David Wecht twice referred to "overly chummy" relationships among justices and others: no names though.

And once, Wecht suggested "acrimony" was involved in the high-court's decision to suspend McCaffery before he resigned. No names (but he meant between then-Chief Justice Ron Castille and McCaffery).

And Democratic Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue said the court has "already done too much" on the email probe.

But unsaid?

No candidate mentioned that despite their views that the court should not decide disciplinary action for its own members the issue was trumped in a Castille opinion last year saying the Supreme Court has "supreme and controlling" authority on discipline.

Oh well.

On money in judicial elections, Republican Adams County President Judge Michael George twice made reference to other candidates getting tons of dough from special interests who regularly have cases before the court. No names though.

(He meant Democrats Wecht, Donohue and Philly Common Pleas Judge Kevin Dougherty -- yes, brother of  IBEW union boss "Johnny Doc" Dougherty -- who collectively so far raised millions more than GOP candidates.)

All candidates -- in my view, laughably -- swore that party affiliation has no impact on the court (this election will determine party majority) and that partisan politics end when a justice is sworn in (cough).

There was a some, actually very little, general criticism of the court. Independent candidate and Philly Common Pleas Judge Paul Panepinto, for example, said, "This is a sad era for our court system."

But Judge George might have summed up the overall kid-glove treatment of the top court when he said, "I'm still a trial judge and they still review my opinions."

Enough said.

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