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February 07, 2001

Phila. Bar Chancellor Applauds Ridge Call for Merit Selection

Terming it "a big step in the right direction," Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Carl S. Primavera today applauded Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge's call for the General Assembly to vote on a proposed Constitutional Amendment on merit selection of appellate judges. Ridge made his remarks yesterday in his annual budget address to the state legislature.

"We are delighted with Gov. Ridge's ringing endorsement of merit selection," Primavera said. "We absolutely agree with the Governor when he says 'We cannot ask the people to make good judgments on judicial candidates, when we expressly prohibit those candidates from sharing their views on the issues'". Currently Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states which still elects all of its judges. Noting that the Philadelphia Bar Association has long favored the non-elective merit selection system of choosing judges, the Chancellor said "we will do everything that we can to work with Governor Ridge to see to it that the state legislature votes on a proposed Constitutional Amendment on merit selection." Once approved in two successive legislative sessions, the Amendment would then go to Pennsylvania voters for their approval. If enacted, appellate judges would then be chosen through a merit selection system.

In his message, Governor Ridge appealed to the state legislature to "put the question before the people of Pennsylvania" and he added that "the federal government and 27 states have shown that appointing judges works." Reviewing the Governor's remarks, Primavera observed: "We could not have said it any better ourselves." The Chancellor said the Bar Association would join with Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts and like-minded groups supporting the proposal. "In the name of justice, we pledge to work for the enactment of this Amendment," he concluded.

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