I received an interesting e-mail from Jim Panyard, a Republican candidate for Governor. He points outs many things that are wrong with the way we pick judges in Pennsylvania and how people can register their outrage over the recent pay raise. He even quotes Vito Corleone to support his argument! Anyone who uses the Godfather to make a political point is all right by me. It is such a well reasoned position, I have to share it with you:
The Panyard Report #2 From: James Panyard
Sent: Friday, October 28, 2005 10:59 AM
Subject: The Panyard Report#2
WILL THERE BE A COST FOR THE SUPREME COURT PAY GRAB?
By Jim Panyard
Pennsylvania's judicial elections have, based on voter turnouts, meant very little to the state's voters. Traditionally a turnout of 12 to 15 percent of registered voters, or about 6 or 7 percent of those over the age of 18, has determined who will dispense truth and justice from state benches.
The system for selecting judges is deeply flawed. It politicizes those who are supposed to dispense "blind justice" and objectively interpret state law.
When judges are beholden to the money and voter turnout mustered by special interest groups such as labor unions, the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers, state lawmakers and political parties, they cease to be "citizens above suspicion."
Controversial rulings by Pennsylvania courts, up to and including the state Supreme Court, are always colored by a deep suspicion that someone or some group "pulled some strings." Those suspicions are warranted.
Lawyers seeking to become judges aren't picked by an Act of God. They have been politically active, party loyalists, significant contributors to Republican or Democrat candidates and parties and have shown a willingness to, if "not rock the boat", then to at least "play ball" and be aware of "how the system works."
One is reminded of the classic film, "The Godfather." Don Vito Corleone tells a subject he has just granted a favor, "Perhaps, some time in the future, and that time may never come, I will call upon you for a favor."
Imagine a lawyer, desirous of becoming a judge, asking a regional or statewide political Don for his favor and help in securing election to a judgeship. The words may not be the same as those of Don Vito, but do you imagine the message is any different?
This November 8 Pennsylvanians will again have the opportunity to select judges, but the scene is slightly different than the typical "off year", low turnout, apathetic voter judicial election.
Two state Supreme Court Justices, Russell Nigro, a Democrat and Sandra Newman, a Republican, must stand for "retention" to secure another 10-year term on the state's high court. They are both from the Philadelphia region of the state.
What makes this year's election different is that taxpayers are still enraged about the mammoth, unconstitutional pay grabs for the governor, state lawmakers - and state judges - that was passed on July 7th, at 2 a.m.
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court, Ralph Cappy, who, fortunately for Ralph, is not standing for retention this year, was the original designer of the pay hikes ranging from 16 to 54 percent.
That makes Nigro and Newman potential targets of voter wrath on Nov. 8. The Republican Party that carried the pay raises through the state House and Senate, both of which it controls, has already said it will put up significant dollars to defend Newman. In all likelihood, the Democrats will do the same for Nigro.
On the other side of the financially imbalanced scale are angry taxpayers who may or may not get up off their duffs on Nov. 8 to sacrifice Newman and Nigro as symbols of their disgust with "business as usual in Harrisburg."
There is no well funded, statewide organized campaign to set the upheaval in motion. Just a glowing hope that people still care enough about their freedom to use what is left of it in the voting booth
(Mr. Panyard is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor of Pennsylvania.)