Two of Pennsylvania’s major newspapers, inspired by the Caperton v. Massey argument this week, are calling for Merit Selection. In an editorial, the Philadelphia Inquirer argues:
Spending on statewide judicial races underscores the messy business involving the river of money that flows through judicial elections. Checks often are written by lawyers who then appear before judges - an apparent conflict that the majority of voters have told pollsters they find troubling. . . .
The antidote to those elections, of course, is to switch to the merit-based appointment of appellate judges. . . .
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette concurred on its editorial page. Quoting Justice Kennedy’s observation that “Our whole system is designed to ensure confidence in our judgments,” the Post-Gazette argued, “Of course, that system would be much better if judges were selected in merit-based systems not susceptible to campaign contributors.”
As we’ve stated repeatedly, we think recusal rules in cases involving campaign contributors is a good place to start to address the problem of money in judicial elections. That’s why we joined an amicus brief in the Caperton case. But the better course of action - - and a more permanent solution — is to get appellate court judges out of the fundraising business altogether. Merit Selection accomplishes that, and we’re heartened to see these public calls for real reform.