Monday, September 24, 2012

Chief justice wants to end judicial elections in Pennsylvania

Chief Justice Ronald Castille said in an recent interview he's favors reducing political influence on the judiciary by ending the election of judges in the state, reported WHYY-FM in Philadelphia.

Castille stunned Pennsylvania lawmakers in January by breaking with his fellow Republicans on the court and casting the deciding vote to overturn a redistricting plan challenged by Democrats. The Legislative Reapportionment Commission has returned with a new map, and it's again under challenge by citizen activists and Senate Democrats.

Castille, who says he has long believed in merit selection of judges, said it was a plank in his platform when he ran for the court in 1993.  Common pleas and appellate judges are elected in Pennsylvania and subject to retention every 10 years.  Magistrate judges are elected every six years.

"Even back then I was saying, 'Wow, you know, this is an odd way to elect individuals who are going to have significant control over situations in your lives or business disputes, government disputes,'" he told WHYY.

Castille hasn't actively crusaded for merit selection, since it's an issue for the Legislature to consider. But he said he still believes in the idea.

Activists have tried and, so far, fallen short on trying to create courts with appointed jurists.

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