Letter: Pa. needs a merit system to pick judges

ISSUE | PA. JUDICIARY

Use a merit system

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Kevin Dougherty was the top fund-raiser and vote-getter for state Supreme Court in November.

Pennsylvanians have emerged from a judicial election with a historic number of vacancies and a historic amount - more than $16 million - spent on attack ads.

As all of Pennsylvania's living governors, we urge all members of the state House of Representatives to support merit selection of statewide judges. Local judges would not be affected.

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that elect judges in partisan elections. Merit selection is a commonsense solution used in many states and would be a vast improvement over our system, in which judges are often selected based on fund-raising prowess, name recognition, ballot position, or party affiliation. With merit selection, qualifications would be written into the constitution, ensuring that our judges meet more than the minimum standards.

Changing the way appellate court judges are chosen would require a constitutional amendment. Nine out of 10 Pennsylvanians want to reevaluate how statewide judges are chosen, but two sessions of the House must support merit selection for it to go to a public referendum.

We encourage citizens to ask their representatives to make merit selection for appellate court judges a priority.

|Govs. Tom Wolf, Tom Corbett,

Ed Rendell, Mark Schweiker,

Tom Ridge, and Dick Thornburgh