The statistic that today's Daily News editorial starts out with is just crazy:
Three times out of five, at least one party to a civil case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2008 and 2009 had given a campaign contribution to one or more of the justices.
Of course this gets us back to the whole merit selection vs. elections debate. Over here, Matthew Yglesias makes a compelling argument relevant to the discussion:
Voting is a valuable check on poor job performance by public officials if and only if the voting public has some realistic prospect of monitoring them. Most Americans are asked to vote in far more elections than they’re realistically going to pay attention to.
He links to a new study indicating that non-elected judges are performing better than their counterparts (of course this is a difficult thing to quantify, the study lays out some guidelines).
The DN editorial says that change can come in Pennsylvania, but it won't be easy, and it won't be fast:
Bipartisan support for a change has been growing, but time is running out: A workable plan has been proposed in the Legislature: in it, the governor would choose, and the state Senate would confirm, a judge from a list of five candidates nominated by a nonpartisan commission heavy on representatives from the public. To be enacted, the plan requires an amendment to the state constitution, which in turn requires that the legislation be passed in two consecutive terms of the Legislature before a state referendum.
If the Legislature were to pass it this term and then at the beginning of next year, Pennsylvanians could vote on it by November 2011. If not, they would have to wait until 2013 or longer. The Legislature has until July to act to fulfill a requirement that the amendment be published for three months before the general election.
Governor Rendell held a press conference calling for merit selection yesterday -- he's said that pushing for this and other reforms will be a priority of his remaining time in office. We'll see.