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Pa. House Speaker: Supreme Court Rulings Make Case For Merit Selection

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(Credit: Representative Sam Smith's office)

(Credit: Representative Sam Smith’s office)

(Capitol dome, Harrisburg, Pa.   File photo) Tony Romeo
  Tony Romeo is Harrisburg bureau chief for KYW Newsradio...
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By Tony Romeo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) – It appears a brewing feud between the state legislature and the state Supreme Court could boost the chances for legislation that could lead to a system of selecting appeals court judges on merit, instead of voters electing them.

Last week, the state Supreme Court ordered special elections for six vacant state House seats, over the objections of Speaker Sam Smith, who had cited the uncertainty caused by another Supreme Court ruling that tossed out the new map of legislative districts.

But, while he agreed to follow the order, the speaker issued a stinging statement, saying the court is usurping the legislature’s power.

And his spokesman, Stephen Miskin, says the rulings are making the case for merit selection of judges to the state Commonwealth, Superior and Supreme Courts. “The majority on the Supreme Court have given more reasons possibly than ever before of why merit selection is necessary in Pennsylvania.”

Miskin says the high court is tipping the balance of power in its favor. “If you read the decision of the majority, they went out of their way to insult the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, elected by the people.”

Miskin says if appeals court judges were chosen by a merit system, it would result in more “professional” jurists.

Legislation in the House would create a commission that would nominate judges, who would be selected by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, if voters approve a constitutional amendment. Miskin believes the result would be judges who are “more professional”.

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