By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Earlier this week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspended Justice Seamus McCaffery after he admitted to sending hundreds of pornographic emails to state employees. This scandal, and others, has led to renewed calls for statewide court reform.
“We’ve received many calls in the past week asking for change,” says Lynn Marks, the Executive Director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, a state-wide non-partisan organization that lobbies for court reforms. She says the McCaffery porn allegations, as well as the issues surrounding Philadelphia’s Traffic Court underscores the need to re-think how judges are selected in the Commonwealth — especially on the highest court.
“We’re one of only six states that elect all levels of our judges in partisan elections and there have been proposals to change for quite a while,” says Marks. She says her group wants judges for appeals courts — like the Pennsylvania Supreme Court — to be chosen based on merit and not by the ballot.
“Judges should be selected based on their personal integrity and legal qualifications,” she says. “What you want is a fair and impartial judge, not somebody who got there because they campaigned their way in or because they were a good fundraiser.”
She says forcing judges to make political alliances in exchange for campaign funds leads to less integrity on the bench.
But changing the current judicial selection process could take some time. After all, a reform bill would require a change to the state constitution.
For more information: http://www.pmconline.org/