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.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Max Baer this week announced the selection of seven counties to participate in the launch of the Pennsylvania State Roundtable’s Family Engagement Initiative.
The roundtable is a collaborative effort among state and national court and child welfare leaders.
Building upon past successes, the initiative will focus on enhancements to local child dependency systems which serve abused or neglected children and their families.
Read the full announcement here.
The Supreme Court has approved a new public access policy for case records filed in and maintained by the appellate and trial courts. The policy's adoption marks the Court's continued commitment to making case records open and accessible to the public while safeguarding sensitive, private information contained in those records. The policy becomes effective January 6, 2018, allowing a one-year implementation period for the courts, lawyers and court users to prepare for the transition.
The Court's policy, explanatory report, and a chart entitled Limits on Public Access to the Unified Judicial System of Case Records of the Appellate and Trial Courts (listing restrictions imposed by existing legal authority) are available on the UJS website.
Read the full story in the Board newsletter.
Bradford C. Timbers broke just about every ethics rule written for judges. He was charged by disciplinary authorities for coming to work drunk, attempting to fix a traffic case, screaming profanities in court and patting his secretary on her buttocks.
The troubled Allentown district justice was removed from the bench in 1997, just three years after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court created the Judicial Conduct Board to police the state's judges. District justices have since been renamed magisterial district judges, but while the title has changed, one thing has remained constant: the state's minor judiciary is plagued by misconduct.
Read the full story in the Legal Intelligencer.
A Pittsburgh lawyer who clerked for multiple judges, including three members of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, has been named the temporary head of the state's newest training center for judges.
Joy G. McNally has been announced as the interim director of the Thomas R. Kline Center for Judicial Education at the Duquesne University School of Law.
The Kline Center was made possible by a $7.5 million donation by the namesake litigator and the collaboration of nine law schools. Its mission is to provide free continuing legal education to the state's judges in advance of a new education requirement for sitting jurists. It's a first-of-its-kind CLE partnership across law schools that are typically competitors.
The Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts is also involved in planning the CLE curriculum for the more than 600 judges in the state.
Read more in the Legal Intelligencer.
Soon all judges in Pennsylvania will be required to take 12 credit hours of continuing judicial education each year, including a minimum of three hours in ethics instruction.
The recent mandate from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court marks the first time that more than 600 judges in Pennsylvania courts will be required to have ongoing legal education, similar to the 12 credit hours of training a year now required for lawyers.
Read more from Philly.com.
It is an issue that human resources professionals frequently face. An employee is discharged. The employee, or the employee's attorney, demands the opportunity to inspect the employee's personnel file to determine whether the file contains documentation supporting the reason for the employee's discharge. Do you, as a human resources professional, have a legal obligation to allow the former employee, or his or her representative, to review the employee's personnel file?
Read more in JD Supra.
Both Justice Sallie Mundy and Judge Dwayne Woodruff had uncontested primaries, allowing them to build their war chests for the general election.
Mundy ended the second quarter with a large cash advantage, bringing forward $250,666.25 cash on hand. Woodruff ended the quarter with $21,041.49. Part of the disparity between the two candidates came from Mundy’s raising $56,100, and bringing forward $194,566.25 from her cycle 2 report. Woodruff raised $42,815 and brought forward $26,959.67 from cycle 2.
Read more in PoliticsPA.
The Pennsylvania Building and Trades Council unanimously endorsed Supreme Court Justice Sallie Mundy.
“I am honored to have the endorsement of the hard working men and women of the State Building and Trades Council,” Sallie Mundy said in a press release.
Click here to read the full story from Philadelphia Business Journal (subscription required).
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
1500 John F. Kennedy Blvd., 2 Penn Center, Suite 1140, Philadelphia, PA 19102