University of Denver

Judicial Scandals May Propel Selection Reform in Pennsylvania

Former Manager, Quality Judges Initiative

As Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, a longtime advocate of judicial selection reform, celebrates its 25th year, supporters of moving from partisan elections to commission-based appointment of the state's appellate judges are optimistic that the time is finally right. That optimism stems largely from two recent scandals that have plagued the state supreme court: now-former Justice Joan Orie Melvin's conviction on six counts of public corruption related to her election campaigns and an FBI investigation of client referral fees for Justice Seamus McCaffrey's wife and chief aide. The reform legislation also enjoys the support of four of the state's former governors, including two Democrats and two Republicans, and has co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle as well. The bill is currently being circulated for additional co-sponsors.