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March 01, 2012

Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor-Elect Urges Adoption of House Bills 1815 and 1816 on Selection of Appellate Judges

Kathleen D. Wilkinson, Chancellor-Elect of the 13,000-member Philadelphia Bar Association, provided detailed comments today (Thursday, March 1) to the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee supporting adoption of House Bills 1815 and 1816 regarding selection of appellate judges.

"With little relevant information about judicial candidates, voters often make choices for reasons that have nothing to do with qualifications for judicial office," Wilkinson said. "In primary elections, ballot position can determine an election. In the general election, voters often choose a candidate based on an identity of ethnicity, residence or the appeal of a television ad."

"The time has come," Wilkinson said, "to stop electing appellate court judges, to restore the confidence of the electorate in our judicial system, and to open the process to a wider and more diverse pool of well qualified candidates."

Wilkinson noted that the Philadelphia Bar Association has long supported changing the way appellate judges are selected in Pennsylvania.

Additionally, she suggested revisions to the current bills including that an Appellate Court Nominating Commission be required to conduct the interviews of candidates and obtain the documents described in House Bill 1816 for all candidates whose names are ultimately submitted to the Governor, rather than making interviews optional as presently provided in those subsections. She also recommended that the commission be required to include more specific selection criteria in the rules of procedure.

"We would prefer amendment of the bills to include the revisions suggested, but even without those amendments, the proposed selection process would be far better than our current system of partisan elections," Wilkinson said.

The full text of the testimony can be found by clicking here.
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