Report: O'Connor calls for merit selection, retention of Pa. judges

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Jun 14, 2013

PHILADELPHIA (Legal Newsline) -- Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, in remarks at a Philadelphia Bar Association award presentation this week, spoke out against the state's election of judges.

Currently, Pennsylvania judges -- in particular, appellate and lower court judges, including magisterial district judges and Common Pleas Court judges -- are chosen in partisan elections.

The former justice, who retired from the nation's high court in 2006, told those in attendance at the 20th anniversary presentation of the Bar's Sandra Day O'Connor Award Wednesday that electing appellate and trial court judges is a departure from the U.S. Constitution.

According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, O'Connor said having judges viewed as lawyers and politicians is a "serious problem."

She pointed to a poll showing that nearly 70 percent of Americans perceive judges to be influenced by campaign contributions, the newspaper reported.

In her speech, O'Connor pressed the Bar to keep fighting for a merit retention system.

Under such a system, a governor appoints new judges, usually from a short list of names submitted by a state nominating commission.

Once appointed, judges eventually face the voters in a "yes" or "no" vote as to whether they should remain on the bench.

The Philadelphia Bar, along with the Pennsylvania Bar Association and nonprofit Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, support merit selection and retention.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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