February 29, 2016

Speaker Turzai Announces Support For Appellate Court Merit Selection

Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) Monday announced his support of a constitutional amendment to change the way statewide appellate court judges are chosen by replacing partisan judicial elections with a merit-based selection system.
The House Judiciary Committee approved the merit selection model outlined in House Bill 1336 sponsored by Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster).
Under the bill, those seeking an appellate judicial post would have to apply to a bipartisan Appellate Court Nominating Commission comprised of lawyers and nonlawyers appointed by the governor, and House and Senate leadership.
“This approach takes much of the politics out of the process and bases bipartisan selection on qualifications like legal experience, reputation for ethical behavior, honesty, fairness and good temperament,” said Rep. Turzai. “Those are qualities Pennsylvanians want on the bench, far more than who can raise more money for better commercials.”
The commission would interview the judicial applicants and develop a short list from which the governor would choose the nominee to place before the Senate for confirmation. After a four-year term, the judge would stand for retention.
The bill would require a constitutional amendment. In order to amend the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the bill proposing the amendment must be passed by the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions, be advertised per Article XI, §1 of the Constitution, and finally be approved by the electorate.
The measure enjoys bipartisan gubernatorial support from all  six living governors. It is now awaiting consideration by the full House.