Judicial Retirement Age Should Remain 70

Judicial Retirement Age Should Remain 70 — A question to amend the Pennsylvania constitution and raise the mandatory retirement ages for judges from 70 to 75 is on today’s (Nov. 8) ballot.

Vote no.

We detailed the petty political history behind that question back in September. Feel free to read it if you should need the background.

Judicial Retirement Age Should Remain 70

Pointless Pettiness Is Bad Politics

Pointless pettiness is bad politics.

The Pennsylvania Constitution mandates that judges retire at age 70. Some thought that was too early and wanted to make it age 75. The amendment process requires one of the legislative chambers — both of which have been under Republican control since 2011 — to write the amendment. It is then advertised in at least two newspapers in every county at least three months before the next general election. It then must be passed again via simple majority by both chambers in the next session. The wording is then placed on a ballot as a referendum giving the general public final say.

The chambers approved this:  Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to require that justices of the Supreme Court, judges and justices of the peace (known as magisterial district judges) be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years, instead of the current requirement that they be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 70?

The referendum was scheduled for the April 26 primary and the mandated advertising — costing the public $1.3 million  — was performed.

Pointless Pettiness Is Bad PoliticsThe Senate leadership had second thoughts, however. Cynics are saying they feared the public might vote it down which would have forced the removal of Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, a Republican, giving the Democrats control of the state Supreme Court.

So they filed a legal challenge claiming the words were too confusing. The state Supreme Court laughed and threw it out.

The legislature then passed resolutions, April 6 and April 11 invalidating  the election two weeks away. They  re-wrote the amendment for the Nov. 8 general election as:  Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to require that justices, judges and justices of the peace be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years.

Democrats  filed a legal challenge saying the delay was unconstitutional because the legislation was not presented to Gov. Wolf as required. Commonwealth Court rejected the argument.

They filed another challenge saying the delay illegal because it was political in nature. Commonwealth Court rejected this claim on July 6.

A challenged was filed on July 21 by former Supreme Court justices Ronald Castille and Stephen Zappala Sr, and Philadelphia attorney Richard Sprague saying the new wording was deceitful.

Supreme Court took the case and voted 3-3 which left the wording as the short version. Saylor appropriately recused himself.

Yesterday, Sept. 16, the court ruled 4-2 that the case can’t be reconsidered, hence the short version without the mention of an existing mandated retirement age is what the voters will see.

The Court got it right with the last argument. It isn’t their job to determine the wording of amendments. On the other hand, it is judiciary’s job to judge process and if constitutional amendments require legislative votes in consecutive sessions with advertising in between, then one wonders how changes in the wording can be made at the last minute.

And what’s it say about our solons if they can’t get it right in the first place?

The word changes are pointless gamesmanship and political pettiness at the highest level. This stuff always backfires especially when one learns it has wasted $1.3 million of our money.

And, for what it’s worth, the retirement age should not be increased. Vote this amendment down on Nov. 8.

Pointless Pettiness Is Bad Politics

 

 

 

 

 

Kathleen Kane And Media Failure

Kathleen Kane And Media FailureKathleen Kane And Media Failure — Kathleen Kane is an historic figure. She is the first woman and the first Democrat to be elected Pennsylvania’s attorney general. She is also the first Pennsylvania attorney general to have her law license suspended.

Truly a unique legacy.

The law license suspension came after she was charged with multiple counts of obstructing administration of law  and official oppression, along with perjury and false swearing relating to leaks from the grand jury investigation  the Jerry Sandusky child abuse matter.  She had been implying that then Gov. Tom Corbett had handled it inappropriately, something for which Corbett has since been conclusively exonerated it should be noted.

Leaking grand jury information is a big no-no in our judicial system and rightfully so, but it’s not as though that was the only questionable thing she did in her short career as the person responsible for enforcing Pennsylvania’s laws. She refused to refused to defend Pennsylvania’s gay-marriage prohibition in court declaring it unconstitutional — a declaration that was not in her purview to make — and shut down a corruption investigation into Philadelphia politicians which was subsequently re-opened by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams who managed to obtain several guilty pleas.

With all this grief falling on her head, our princess fought back. She said it was all a conspiracy by powerful men who spent their days sending pornography and racist jokes to each other via email. Quick quiz: did any of you gentle readers ever send or receive something a tad inappropriate via email? Of course not. However, it now appears that Ms. Kane certainly received them herself and her twin sister, Ellen Granahan, who heads her child predator unit, not only got them but passed them on.

So what was this woman thinking when she made her counter-charges and  hurt the lives of others who were just trying to do their jobs? How can a person of such character end up with such a powerful and important job?

Well, she was sort of pretty and that’s not to be discounted, but so is Sarah Palin.

The real reason is that Ms. Kane’s claims and character were never questioned by the media gate-keepers who we trust to do such things. Maybe they were afraid of being called sexist. Maybe they actually supported her philosophy that traditions are foolish and government is the greater good. Maybe both. Regardless, they  took her at her word when she said that she cared, and would look out for children and the little guy, and fight corruption.

It should be noted that the same thing dynamics were in play with Barack Obama and are in play with Hillary Clinton.

That should make us all afraid.

Kathleen Kane And Media Failure

Supreme Court Forum 5 p.m.

Independent candidate Judge Paul Panepinto is asking all to watch  watch the Pennsylvania Supreme Court candidates debate on PCN. Supreme Court Forum 5 p.m. It's  5 p.m., today,  Oct 14 at Harrisburg Widener Commonwealth Law School.  Election Day is Nov. 3.  The Republican nominees are Judith Olson, Michael George and Anne Covey. The Democrats are David Wecht, Christine Donohue and Kevin Dougherty.

It’s  5 p.m., today,  Oct 14 at Harrisburg Widener Commonwealth Law School.

Election Day is Nov. 3.

The Republican nominees are Judith Olson, Michael George and Anne Covey. The Democrats are David Wecht, Christine Donohue and Kevin Dougherty.

Supreme Court Forum 5 p.m.

Unions Spending Big On Pa Supreme Court

By Leo Knepper Unions Spending Big On Pa Supreme Court

Leading up to the May primaries we noted that organized labor had made significant contributions to the campaign of Judge Kevin Dougherty. (Note: Dougherty’s brother was just made the head of the Philadelphia Building Trades Council.) The spending did not stop after the primaries ended; it expanded. According to a Philadelphia Inquirer article, organized labor has now made over $1.3 million in direct contributions to candidates for the Supreme Court.

Unions see the composition of the Supreme Court as being of critical importance in the near future:

“‘For us right now, the Supreme Court is ground zero,’ said Joe Battaglia, treasurer of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 1, representing about 3,000 workers in Southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware.”

The article outlines how unions see the Supreme Court as a bull work against any legislation that affects whether or not the government will act as a union collection agent for dues and political contributions. Supreme Court elections are generally sleepy affairs. However, this year’s elections will impact what ability the Legislature has to address issues like liquor store privatization and pension reform for decades.

If the Supreme Court races have flown under your radar up until now, you had better start paying attention. Otherwise, Pennsylvania may find itself with a court more interested in affecting policy than being interested in what the laws and state constitution actually say.

Mr. Knepper is with Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania, anon-profit organization founded to raise the standard of living of all Pennsylvanians.

Unions Spending Big On Pa Supreme Court

Michael George Enters Supreme Court Race

PoliticsPa.com reports that the Michael George, the president judge of conservative Adams County, has announced his candidacy for one of three openings on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Others who have announced their candidacies are Superior Court Judge Cheryl Lynn Allen, Commonwealth Court Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer, as well as Corraeale Stevens, who was appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett to complete Joan Orie Melvin’s term which ends in January 2016.

George, it appears, is the candidate least connected to the raather dirty state party establishment so as of now he is our favorite.

The primary election is May 19. The general election is Nov. 3.

Hat tip Donna Ellingsen.

Michael George Enters Supreme Court Race

Michael George Enters Supreme Court Race

 

Election Day 2013

Today, Nov. 5, is Election Day 2013 in Pennsylvania. Mostly on the ballot are races for municipal offices such as county council, township commissioners and school board officers.

There is, however, a retention election for state Supreme Court justices Ron Castille and Max Baer, who cowardly ducked the photo voter ID issue in 2012. Vote no in it. Neither fellow will be able to complete another full-term, anyway, due to the mandatory 70-year-old retirement age.

In Castille’s case that particular milestone is reached on March 16.

Election Day 2013

Reject Pa Justices Tuesday

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille and Justice Max Baer face retention elections Tuesday, Nov. 5, and both should be rejected.

Voters, in fact, should be willing to crawl over broken glass and dance on hot coals to hit the “no” button.

The specific reason for ire is their cowardice in failing to allow the common-sense photo voter ID law — overwhelmingly supported by the state’s citizens  — on the specious grounds that it needed more discussion before the 2012 presidential election. Note it is now November 2013 and the law remains on hold.

There is a general reason as well, namely that the state’s judiciary are almost universally far more inclined to listen to the power brokers who milk the tax cow for a lucrative living, hence throwing a few of them out might, just might, make them a tad more inclined to respect the people who their decisions most affect.

Another point, the mandatory retirement age for a Justice is 70 and neither man will be able to complete a full 10-year term as Castille hits that mark on March 16 and Baer turns 66 on Dec. 24. Why are the even seeking another term? Is it to squeeze out even more of their sweet salaries  — $205,415 in Castille’s case; $199,606 in Baer’s?

Castille is a Republican. Baer is a Democrat.

Reject Pa Justices Tuesday

John Morganelli Describes Judicial Neo Feudalism

John Morganelli Describes Judicial Neo Feudalism — Bob Guzzardi has received the email below  from Northampton District Attorney John Morganelli concerning what appears to be an attempt to manipulate the law to extend the term of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief  Justice Ron Castille and four other Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justices who will be turning 70 by invalidating the Constitutionally mandated retirement age of 70  (six of the remaining unconvicted justices will be gone in eight years under the mandatory retirment rule so there is a lot of self-interest in the mandatory retirement case as DA Morganelli points out.)

There are solid reasons to retain the mandatory retirement age, not the least of which is restraining the power of government by diluting the power of a few.

Supreme Court Justice Castille and Justice Max Baer will be seeking retention in November 2013.

Morganelli is a Democrat. He also happens to be right on this issue.

From District Attorney John Morganelli:
Pennsylvania’s Constitutional Crisis: Will Judicial Self-Interest Trump the Constitution?

Judges are sworn to uphold the Constitution and protect our constitutional form of government.  But what happens when judicial self-interest collides with the Constitution? Pennsylvania may be  on the precipice of a constitutional crisis.

In 1989 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld Pennsylvania’s Constitution which prohibits a judge to remain in office after the age of 70. Since then,  numerous judges have  retired at 70. But recently, a number of jurists  filed lawsuits challenging the restriction.  Then, the Chief Justice, who coincidentally  turns 70 next year, announced that he would seek retention for another 10 year term on the high court even  though next year would be his last if the age restriction remains in place. Next, the eyebrows of many attorneys were raised when the Supreme Court  reached down, bypassing the lower court, and agreed to hear and expedite one of those cases. Is there  anyone who actually believes that despite the clear precedent, all these judges  suddenly woke up one morning and, independently of each other,  decided to sue?

When these actions were filed,  many lawyers questioned  “why” when similar challenges had always failed. A previous panel of the Supreme Court upheld the age restriction in the  Constitution which was approved by the people at the ballot box. In 1991, the US Supreme Court upheld a similar restriction in Missouri’s state constitution. The question is: What has changed? And, what is the rush ? Judges have been retiring for decades at 70.  Pennsylvania judges campaigned knowing their terms were limited by mandatory retirement. Most of them would not have had an opportunity to be a judge but for the age restriction which forced judges to retire and created vacancies.  Now, some want to change the rules and strike down the Constitution on the way.

Many believe that the high court wants a speedy decision  so that a potential ruling can benefit the Chief Justice and the  other 4 Justices who are turning 70 in the next few years.  All of this has fueled speculation by the legal community that the litigation may have been encouraged by a member of the Supreme  Court  itself.  Will any of the Justices recuse themselves? Or, will  the court  assert that the “Rule of Necessity” permits them to hear this case even though all of the Justices have a personal and financial interest in setting aside the prohibition? The “rule of necessity”  is  an exception to the disqualification of a judge who has  a conflict of interest. But it only applies when no other tribunal is available to hear the dispute. Here, there exists a companion  federal action which has now been stayed to allow the Supreme Court to act first and make moot the federal case.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court has ordered  the lawyers to specifically  address Article I of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Declaration of Rights  which provides in Section 26  that neither the Commonwealth nor any political subdivision may discriminate against any person in the exercise of any “civil right.” However, the Supreme Court previously  held that the age restriction   did not violate the Declaration of Rights Discrimination provision. It recognized that that provision was intended to restrain “government”, and that the rights enumerated in the Declaration of Rights do not restrain the power of the people themselves as expressed in the Constitution. Gondelman v. Commonwealth 554 A2d 896 (1989). This provision was intended to prevent “government” from transgressing individuals’ basic “civil rights”. The US Supreme Court in 1991 settled the question that being a judge is not a fundamental right. Gregory v. Ashcroft  501 US 454. Nevertheless,  the Supreme Court now may be  poised to overrule years of precedent by proclaiming that the age restriction is inconsistent with the discrimination clause thus allowing them to get what they want, trample on the Constitution,  and  at the same time maintain that they are actually upholding the constitution.

It appears imprudent  for the Supreme Court to hear this case. This court has been tarnished by the recent conviction of one of the Justices. The Pennsylvania  judiciary in general has been harmed by the  “Kids for Cash” scandal, the Philadelphia Traffic Court report as well as other matters.  The integrity of our courts and of the  judges who sit on them is fundamental to our  system. Taking this case and setting aside the Constitution will be harmful. The  Justices sit at the pinnacle of power, and it is understandable how some may not want to relinquish it.  Like it or not, our Constitution, passed  by the people sets age limits on the ability to exercise that power.  For those who believe that the age restriction is subject to fair debate, the proper method is to amend Pennsylvania’ s Constitution through  the process established: approval by two consecutive  sessions of the legislature, and approval of the people at the ballot box. Setting aside Pennsylvania’s Constitution via judicial fiat by Justices with a personal and financial interest in the outcome is dangerous and wrong.  Only time will tell whether self-interest trumps the Constitution.

John M. Morganelli is the District Attorney of Northampton County and Past President of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association. He was the  Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania Attorney General in 2008.

 

John Morganelli Describes Judicial Neo Feudalism

John Morganelli Describes Judicial Neo Feudalism

 

Insurgents Fall In GOP State Races; Dem Battle Close

The Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judges who actively sought Tea Party support fell handily  to the endorsed candidates in the Republican Primary state judicial races.

With 97 percent of the returns tallied, Paula Patrick was trailing Harrisburg attorney Vic Stabile  361,772 votes  to 190,231 in the Superior Court race, while Paul Panepinto had 167,455 votes to Anne Covey’s 386,751 in the Commonwealth Court race.

The 15-member Superior Court is the intermediate appellate court for civil and criminal cases from county Common Pleas Courts. The nine-member Commonwealth Court is the
intermediate appellate court for issues involving taxation, banking,
insurance, utility regulation, eminent domain, election, labor
practices, elections, Department of Transportation matters, and liquor
licenses
.

On the Democrat side, party-endorsed Kathryn Boockvar, a private attorney known for her work with activist groups, was leading Barbara Behrend Ernsberger 300,389 votes to 297,635 to be the Commonwealth Court candidate.

On some local notes, incumbent Springfield (Delco) 6th Ward Commissioner Bob Layden appears to have held off a challenge from former commissioner Jim Devenney, who resigned after a minor scandal involving family memberships to the township swim club. The unofficial tally is 437 to 396.

And Tea Party activists Lisa Esler and John Dougherty 3rd will be on both party ballots in this November’s Penn Delco School Board race. Elections are being held for five seats. Cross filing is allowed in Pennsylvania school board races which means that in this fall’s race ticket totals will be combined to determine the winners.

Mrs. Esler had the most votes of six candidates on the Democrat side with 424, and had the third highest tally out of seven candidates on the GOP side with 1,239.

Dougherty had the most votes on the GOP side with 1,534 and the second highest total on the Democrat side with 377.

The candidates who won on both tickets — additionally Kevin Tinsley and Kimberly Robinson — while having a significant advantage do not have a guaranteed victory. Lewis Boughner appears to have failed to win on the Democrat ticket while James S. Porter 2nd appears to have failed to win on the Republican one, so there will be six people seeking five seats. It is in the realm of possibility that a person appearing on just one ballot will be among the top five votegetters.

In Newtown, embattled supervisor Linda Houldin was crushed 1,732 votes to 480 votes  in her GOP primary by former Marple Newtown School Director Edward C. Partridge. Partridge had sought Tea Party support.