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

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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One Comment

  1. chubber36 says:

    So the PA Supreme Court hands down two rulings that the stae GOP don’t agree with, and – shocker – NOW it’s time for merit selection…Smith wanted to keep the 6 vacant seats (5 in Dem districts) unfilled until November, increasing his party’s majority in the chamber…the Court called BS…too funny…I guess Smith is paying attention these days, as opposed to when he signed all of the Computergate checks, but didn’t know what they were for.

  2. tk69 says:

    The courts are not superior to the legislators. Their job is to not to interpret the law but only to apply in the context as it was written. So, precedent law should be abolished and replaced with a set of judicial standards such as violating the constitution which allows for their removal. Or a simple majority of both houses should allow for the removal of the ruling and 2/3 of each house for the removal of the judges.

    And each law should be judge with each court case with a jury. It should be judged and nullified if the law violates any of the following.. 1) it does not secure individual rights, 2) If the law is unconstitutional, 2) if the law transfer wealth from one party to another.

  3. Gary J. English says:

    Merit selection is like having the fox watch over the hen house.

    Have we not learned about political appointments on boards and authorities that serve at the pleasure of their appointers?

    One such example was the removal of Fred Baker from the RAD Board. His appointer, County Commissioner Bob Cranmer, removed him because he wouldn’t vote for RAD taxes for PNC Park/Heinz Field.

    Merit selction just injects more politics into the electoral process and strips away the voters’ rights.

    Gary J. English
    avigilantone at yahoo dot com

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