On November 7th, voters will select justices to fill three seats on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court. Across the country – including in Pennsylvania – state supreme court elections have become increasingly high-cost and politicized, posing serious threats to the integrity of state courts. As it has in the past, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law will be tracking, analyzing, and publishing television spending data from these elections.
Key trends to watch include:
“Unfortunately, Pennsylvania continues to be at the forefront of a troubling new trend – massive outside spending in judicial races that threatens to erode the confidence of the public in our judiciary and, in some cases, create serious ethical conflicts when judges are forced to confront issues that affect their donors,” said Douglas Keith, counsel at the Brennan Center.
"Campaign spending on partisan elections for appellate court positions has continued its troubling and record-breaking rise. Consequently, we are redoubling our efforts to amend Pennsylvania's constitution so that we select judges and justices based on merit, not money,” Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts President & CEO Maida Milone said. “Justice in Pennsylvania should not go to the highest bidder.”
These races are taking place while Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives is considering HB 111, which would put before voters a constitutional amendment to end partisan contested elections for the state’s highest courts. Instead, the amendment would put in place a nominating commission with 13 members appointed by the Governor and General Assembly leaders to vet and recommend judicial candidates to the Governor for appointment. Justices would still face retention elections for subsequent terms.
Spending estimates for the 2017 contests as well as copies of ads and storyboards provided by Kantar Media/CMAG will be available at the Brennan Center’s Buying Time page. Data from Pennsylvania's 2015 election is available at Buying Time 2015. (CMAG’s calculations do not reflect ad agency commissions or the costs of producing advertisements, nor do they reflect the cost of ad buys on local cable channels.)
The Brennan Center for Justice, the National Institute on Money in State Politics, and formerly Justice at Stake, have documented trends in spending in state supreme court elections since 2000 in a series of reports titled The New Politics of Judicial Elections.
Read more about the Brennan Center’s work on Fair Courts.
For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Naren Daniel at (646) 292-8381 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What you'll find
PMC press releases, statements, and news coverage of our work, in addition to the latest news on Pennsylvania's courts, judicial elections, ethics, discipline and more.
Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to ensuring that all Pennsylvanians can come to our courts with confidence that they will be heard by qualified, fair, and impartial judges