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February 21, 2013

Statement of Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Kathleen D. Wilkinson on the Conviction of Suspended Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin

"This is a sad day for the justice system in Pennsylvania," said Kathleen D. Wilkinson, Chancellor of the 13,000-member Philadelphia Bar Association.

"Jurors in the trial of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin have found that she is guilty on six of the seven counts against her.

"Today’s conviction only underscores the need for changing the way appellate judges are selected in Pennsylvania. When judges are forced to engage in election campaigning requiring large sums of money to be raised, citizens become concerned that those judges are then beholden to campaign contributors, party officials and special interests. As a result, many citizens question whether they will receive fair treatment in a court of law.

"The Philadelphia Bar Association has long supported a merit-based, appointive system of selecting appellate court judges. Through such a system, the best qualified candidates are sought out based on stringent standards, and those who are unqualified to serve are eliminated from consideration.

"The time has come 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, by adopting a system of merit selection for the election of judges in Pennsylvania.

"We are hopeful that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania will soon return to its full complement of seven justices."

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