Pennsylvania Court Corruption Would Be Stifled By HB 38

Pennsylvania Court Corruption Would Be Stifled By HB 38

By Rep. Russ Diamond

Pennsylvania is known for its chocolate, its mountains — and its many opportunities for corruption.

In the days leading to my introduction of House Bill 38, I received the usual and expected rebuttals from mainstream journalists and Harrisburg lobbyists. I was accused of inserting gerrymandering into judicial elections and disenfranchising voters, while at the same time lectured about how “merit selection” (involving a 13-person panel) would somehow not disenfranchise them.

I can’t say I am surprised. As an outsider in Harrisburg, you can always expect pushback from special interests and the media who are always in their pocket.

Still, it makes you wonder why on earth every group of lawyers, journalists, and unions are against a bill that would seek to diversify the geographic makeup of our appellate courts. And then you remember the real problem you were seeking to solve in the first place before all of the “critics” descended: corruption.

My bill would not just diversify the gender, demographic, or geographic makeup of our appellate courts. It would also chop at the deep-seated subversion of justice in Pennsylvania.

Corruption is not something we should tolerate or ignore. It’s an embedded weed that has deep roots and has strangled other plant roots underground along the way.

For too long, Pennsylvanians have been given a raw deal by our judicial system and have been the butt of jokes about our public officials. From House speakers to trial court judges to traffic court judges, to Supreme Court judges, the commonwealth has had its fair share of judicial malpractice and public corruption.

The simple fact of the matter is that Philadelphia and Allegheny have been playing by their own rules while people like my constituents in Lebanon County suffer.

Of the most recent seven appellate court judges convicted or accused of serious crimes, four of them were from Allegheny or Philadelphia. Of the 19 judges on the Pennsylvania Superior Court, the court that decided that Speaker Bill DeWeese and Speaker John Perzel do not need to pay fines for their crimes, 12 of them are from Philadelphia or Allegheny.

You see, the current system of statewide elections for appellate court judges breeds a political class exempted from the rule of law.

Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, the major special interest group pushing against my bill, noted in its own April 2017 study that our commonwealth “has not been a stranger to judicial scandals.” The group perceived the ethics of our higher court judges to be of such concern it issued a report in 2011 on the state’s judicial disciplinary system.

But instead of proposing a decentralization of power that could help prevent such corruption from encompassing government, Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts is proposing to move power away from the voters into the hands of a politically savvy merit selection board.

Real reform gives Pennsylvanians a fair shake instead of rigging it for the politically connected.

That’s why every special interest, media outlet, and lawyer lobbyist is against my bill. Unfortunately for them, they won’t dissuade me and other honest legislators. We will fight to get this bill approved so it becomes a ballot question, giving you a voice and opportunity to end corruption in our judicial system.

Rep. Diamond, a Republican, represents the 102nd District in the Pennsylvania House.

Pennsylvania Court Corruption Would Be Stifled By HB 38

(Note: CAP CEO, Leo Knepper had an opportunity to speak with Rep. Diamond about the proposed amendment on February 1, 2021. The video of the interview can be seen below.)

Pennsylvania Court Corruption Would Be Stifled By HB 38

Pennsylvania Constitutional Amendments Considered

Pennsylvania Constitutional Amendments Considered — Leo Knepper of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania sent us the below discussion of proposed state constitutional amendments. They are aimed at limiting the use of emergency declarations by the governor and replacing state-wide elections of judges to the Supreme, Commonwealth and Superior courts, with election by district. This would weaken the power the corrupt Philadelphia and Pittsburgh machines have over the judiciary.

They are desperately needed as the governor and the state courts behaved more like those of a banana republic in the last year rather than one that respects rights.

Frankly, the entire Constitution should be rewritten.

“Full time” legislators ought to be replaced by part-time ones compensated solely by per diem with a term of no more than 20 days. Legislative districts should no longer be allowed to include a partial county. More than one county, yes. Partial counties no.

Pennsylvania Constitutional Amendments Considered
Pennsylvania Constitutional Amendments Considered

Crompton Re-election Facing Headwinds

Crompton Re-election Facing Headwinds — J. Andrew Crompton was appointed to Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court a year ago to fill a seat vacated by the retirement of Robert Simpson. This term ends a year from now, which means Crompton’s up for election to a full 10-year-term this November.

He may not have a smooth path in the primary. Crompton is the Republican who on Dec. 30 denied a request by owners of 12 bars and restaurants for an injunction against enforcement of a three-week shutdown order, Dec. 10, by the ever-incompetent Gov. Tom Wolf.

The small business-owners said the order was destroying their lives and livelihoods, and they had no choice but to remain open.

Our heartless governor began levying fines and other costs on them.

The appealed and the case landed before Crompton.

Tough toenails was the verdict.

Yes, the fines and costs remain.

We are hearing that people remember.

Crompton has other issues too.

People do remember.

Commonwealth Court is the intermediate appellate court where cases involving state agencies are heard along with some in which the Commonwealth is a party.

We’d like to re-note that more than half of Pennsylvania’s 20,063 covid-19 deaths come from long-term care facilities and this total would be far less if the Wolf administration had been less incompetent and heartless.

Crompton Re-election Facing Headwinds
Crompton Re-election Facing Headwinds -- J. Andrew Crompton was appointed to Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court a year ago to fill a seat vacated by the

Pennsylvania Court Kicks Greens Off Ballot

Pennsylvania Court Kicks Greens Off Ballot — The Democrat Party minions on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Sept. 16, kicked Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins off the Nov. 3 ballot citing a paperwork error.

Repeat: The judges decided that a paperwork error was enough to throw a guy off the ballot; a guy whose supporters spent hours acquiring the appropriate amount of signatures.

The vote, which overturned a lower court ruling, was 5-2 with only the Republicans dissenting. Not saying the GOP motivations were noble but they were in the right if you believe in honest interpretation of the law, representative government and citizen leaders.

Actually, we remember when a citizen activist got shafted by the court when the Republicans controlled it.

It is beyond apparent that our courts are entirely about politics and the judges don’t give a fig about justice or the rule of law.

Anyway, Bob Small, a Green Party activist from Swarthmore, wrote a poem about the matter which we are publishing.

It should strike a little fear into any Democrat with brains. You know, Donald Trump is probably more of a Green than Joe Biden, at least when it comes to military intervention and trade. Even foreign labor. The USMCA did give Mexican autoworkers a nice raise, you know.

Bob’s poem:

Explain to me
again
why I should vote for the Party that knocked my Party off the Presidential Ballot

Explain to me
why I should vote
against 45
and for –
even though I can only vote for HH
by a write in

Explain to me
how this election
is any different
is any different
from any election since at least 1968 in terms of choice
in terms of choice

Explain to me
how I should hold my nose
and vote for a guy named joe
and maybe next election-
I don’t believe
there’s any explanation this time just like there wasn’t any last time any of the last times
from casey to biden and before

Every other country
even included one named Russia
has alternative Parties on the ballot except- Explain that to me.

And here is the official Green Party press release:

HARRISBURG, PA – In the greatest act of voter suppression since Jim Crow legislation, the Democratic Party has disenfranchised 9 million voters in the Commonwealth by using an amendable paperwork error to remove Howie Hawkins from the Pennsylvania General Election ballot in November.

State election officials informed Green Party officers that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, submission of affidavits by fax copy to the Bureau of Elections, which offices were closed due to the pandemic, would be acceptable.

The Democrats failed at two other attempts to defeat democracy in the Keystone State, including a red herring challenge to the 8,500 signatures collected by the GPPA during the pandemic.  The Democrats falsely claimed the signatures were illegible but dropped the challenge when a simple check of the registered voters’ database demonstrated their deceit.

Not satisfied, the Democrats doubled down their attack by appealing a lower court decision allowing the Green Party candidates to appear on the ballot, to the PA Supreme Court which as a 5 – 2 majority of Democratic Party Judges.

The Democrats claimed that the fax copy violated procedure and thereby made the Green Party candidate ineligible.  In the dissenting opinion, it was made clear that this was an amendable situation and should not bar the Green Party from the November election.    The five Democratic Party judges disagreed.

There are two ways to defeat democracy, one way is by preventing citizens from voting, and the other is by preventing worthy candidates from appearing on the ballot. When the law can be used as a subterranean tool in a process which can only be labeled “political profiling” the meaning and the intent of the law is subverted as is the democracy from which those laws were supposed to have sprung.

Pennsylvania Court Kicks Greens Off Ballot
Pennsylvania Court Kicks Greens Off Ballot

If Democrats Believed In Democracy Why Do They Fear The Greens?

If Democrats Believed In Democracy Why Do They Fear The Greens?

By Bob Small

Do Democrats believe in Democracy?

As Ronald Reagan famously said in 1980, There you go again. This time the Pennsylvania Democratic Party reacts in fear and trembling to the big bad
Pennsylvania Green Party by once again taking them to court to keep them off the Novemember Ballot. As though Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden is afraid of Green Party Presidential Candidate Howie Hawkins. I doubt that, and I doubt he even knows about the Pennsylvania Ballot Access situation. It would be interesting to get his reaction to this, but I’d be willing to bet we’ll never get that.

If Democrats Believed In Democracy Why Do They Fear The Greens?

Probably if you asked him, Joe Biden might think Howie Hawkins was a Pitcher for the Wilmington Blue Rocks minor League baseball Team whom he grooved a pitch to on one opening day.

The Pennsylvania Greens were forced, by a previous court decision, to go out and secure enough Petition Signatures, in this time of Covid, to be on the Ballot. Amazingly, they got three times the amount of required signatures. Amazingly, they still are being challenged. Shouldn’t the Democrats be focused on electing their Candidates rather than- To some of us, it feels like Goliath demanding the Referee measure David’s slingshot for the proper size requirements.

By the way, before anyone talks about the Greens “stealing” the Democratic
Vote, I looked at my personal vote and it said to me that it did not belong to any one political party, it only belongs to me. It does not belong to the Constution Party, Democratic Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, or The Republican Party, If anyone has evidence to the otherwise, duly notarized, please forward it to me.

At a certain age, which I’m not revealing even under executive court order, you start to wonder how many more elections you might have in which to vote. If I can’t choose who to vote for, I can’t help feeling my vote, and my voice, is being “stolen”. Perhaps, if I can’t vote for the Candidate of my choice, maybe I will decline to vote. Some, perhaps, may decide to vote for the other Party Candidate, just out of pure anger.

Some progressives, not only Greens, may see this as Big Party Brutality and may consider this when they come to the polling place and/or mail in their votes.

Some of us need someone to vote for, not someone to vote against. Failing that, you obtain some of the results of previous elections.

So we end up with the question, do Democrats really believe in Democracy or is this another case of false advertising. Further, do we really live in a Democracy?

For more information about the PA. Green Party, go to www.gpofpa.org.

Mr. Small is a resident of Swarthmore

If Democrats Believed In Democracy Why Do They Fear The Greens?

Rebecca Warren Outshines Debate Opponents

Rebecca Warren Outshines Debate Opponents — We have been told that Rebecca Warren was the star of the Pennsylvania Superior Court candidate’s debate held Tuesday, May 7, at the Free Public Library in Philadelphia. Only about 50 persons were in the the audience.

Rebecca Warren Outshines Debate Opponents
Rebecca Warren

Two seats are being contested for 10-year terms on the court which is the intermediate appellate court for most matters in the state. We understand it to be the busiest appellate court in the nation.

Debate participants were Democrats Daniel D. McCaffery and Beth Tarasi, and Republicans Ms. Warren, Megan McCarthy King and Christylee Peck.

The latter two Republicans are the choice of the party establishment. Ms. Warren may well be the choice of everyone else.

At least those who don’t want their judges to be the puppets of party bosses.

Anyway, here is a link to some video of the event courtesy of Susan Jane Goldner:

https://www.facebook.com/goldysj/videos/10106707153073413/?t=0

The entire debate will be aired on PCN at 8 tonight, May 9.

The Primary Election is Tuesday, May 21.

Rebecca Warren Outshines Debate Opponents.

Johnny Doc, Kevin Doc And The Noble Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Johnny Doc, Kevin Doc And The Noble Pennsylvania Supreme Court

By Lowman S. Henry

Were you to travel from sea to shining sea you would be hard pressed to find a state appellate court whose reputation has been more besmirched than that of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In recent years, justices have been forced to resign for, among other things, sending sexually and racially inappropriate emails, using public office for campaign purposes, and other activities unbecoming a justice on the state’s highest court.

The resignations of Justice Michael Eakin and Seamus McCaffery in what the media dubbed the “porngate” scandal, and that of Justice Joan Orie Melvin for using her court staff to run campaigns not only left the reputation of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in tatters, but it created an opportunity for Democrats to politicize the state judiciary at the highest level.

Multiple resignations resulted in the unusual situation of having three seats on the seven member bench up for election in 2015.  State Republicans were asleep at the switch as national Democrats, seeking ways to redraw congressional district maps, and their labor union allies poured millions into the race. They won all three seats and claimed partisan control of the court.

In the process, one justice in particular, Justice David N. Wecht, openly campaigned for the overturning of Pennsylvania’s congressional district map.  Candidate Wecht, violating judicial ethics by opining on a case that was likely to come before him, made it clear he felt the state’s congressional district map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

Once on the bench, Wecht and three of his fellow justices made judicial laughing stocks of themselves by tossing out the supposedly gerrymandered map and replacing it with an even more gerrymandered map designed to advantage Democrats – which it did.

The justices had clearly trampled on the legislature’s constitutional power to draw congressional district lines. Representative Chris Dush urged impeachment of the justices saying the ruling “blatantly and clearly contradicts the plain language of the Pennsylvania Constitution, (they) engaged in misbehavior in office . . . each is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.”

Dush’s plea fell on deaf ears as the legislature lacked the political will to stand up for either its own powers or for the constitution.  Thus did every institution in the judicial spectrum fail the people of Penn’s Woods: the legal community did not call out Wecht for his inappropriate campaigning, the Supreme Court trampled the constitution in the gerrymandering case, and the legislature let them get away with it.

Just when you might think it couldn’t get any worse along comes Justice Kevin Dougherty.  Dougherty was one of the three justices that big labor and national Democrat money put on the court in 2015.  His brother is Philadelphia labor leader and political powerbroker extraordinaire John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty.

A few weeks ago Johnny Doc was indicted on a wide array of corruption and embezzlement charges. The federal action also ensnared Philadelphia City Councilman Bobby Henon and six others.  According to news reports Dougherty and Henon “orchestrated a long-running scheme to steal from the union, use the money improperly, and then attempt to cover up the misspent funds by falsifying federal documents.”  WHYY radio also revealed that Dougherty allegedly used union coffers as a “slush fund for thieves and fraudsters.”

The question now becomes does Justice Dougherty fall into that category? We do know millions in labor union dollars were spent on the justice’s campaign for the high court. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has already reported that prosecutors say Kevin Dougherty received home repairs and other benefits and allege they were paid for by his now-indicted brother. No such payments were listed by the justice on his required state financial disclosure forms.

To be clear, Justice Dougherty has not to date been accused of any crime.  But, as the investigation into his brother’s tangled web of union and political finances continues, and Johnny Doc ultimately stands trial, there is no doubt a dark cloud now hovers over the justice’s head, and by extension over the entire Supreme Court.

There is, unfortunately, no electoral remedy for the court’s current situation.  Both Dougherty and Wecht were elected to ten year terms meaning it will be 2025 before they stand for a retention vote.  Given the legislature’s unwillingness to act by impeachment, that means the justices will continue to have a major impact on hugely important matters – both legal and political – for years to come.

And that will cast a pall on every decision they render and continue to erode public confidence in both the judicial and legislative branches of our state government.

Mr. Henry is the chairman andCEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the Lincoln Radio Journal.

Johnny Doc, Kevin Doc And The Noble Pennsylvania Supreme Court
Johnny Doc, Kevin Doc

Pa Judges Corrupt As Legislature, Governor

Pa Judges Corrupt As Legislature

By Lowman S. Henry

The myth has been exposed.

The judicial branch of state government is no different than the legislative and executive branches. Too much power corrupts, and actions are motivated more by political interests than by the public interest.

That partisan politics pervades Pennsylvania’s statewide judiciary was laid bare by the recent re-gerrymandering of the commonwealth’s congressional districts. In what amounted to a flagrant violation of both the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions, a redistricting plan was forced upon voters by judicial fiat.

Under the guise of claims they were correcting an excessive gerrymander, the justices played their role in an elaborate nationwide scheme to force the redraw of district maps in key states. The collusion began at the national level, was put into place when massive labor union campaign donations financed a Democratic takeover of the high court in the 2015 elections, Left-leaning interest groups filed suit, and the justices then issued an unprecedented series of rulings culminating in the institution of a nicer looking, but more highly gerrymandered map favorable to Democrats.

Did the justices right a wrong, or did they overstep their authority? The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. conducts a semi-annual Keystone Business Climate Survey of business owners and chief executive officers. In the Spring 2018 survey conducted during the month of March a total of 61% said the court overstepped its authority, 22% think it righted a wrong.

Speaking of wrong, three seats on the state Supreme Court were open in 2015 because of mis-deeds that forced the resignation of three justices. One was convicted of using taxpayer-paid staff to campaign, one was accused of attempting to blackmail a fellow justice, and another viewed material on his office computer that was, shall we say, not suitable for work.

The judiciary’s carefully cultivated aura of superiority now lies in tatters on the courtroom floor. Using that aura, judges and justices have been given certain perks not afforded the other two branches of state government. They get ten year terms, making them unaccountable to voters. They run for retention rather than for re-election, a process that but once has resulted in jurists being retained.

Should judges and justices serve ten year terms, or should the length of those terms be reduced? Twenty-five percent of respondents to the Spring 2018 Keystone Business Climate Survey said they should continue to serve ten year terms. However, 67 percent think shorter terms are in order. Thirty-six percent supports giving judges and justices six year terms, 31 percent  think they should serve four year terms.

A similar margin supports doing away with retention elections. Seventy-two percent think judges and justices should stand for re-election, 21 percent say the current retention system should itself be retained.

Pennsylvania has three appellate courts the Supreme Court, the Commonwealth Court and the Superior Court. Judges and justices on these courts are currently elected by voters statewide. These elections are low profile with voters often going into the polls having little or no knowledge of the candidates or their qualifications.

Two potential reforms have been proposed. One is a so called “merit selection” process in which voters would have no say in the selection of judges and justices who would then be picked by power brokers in the other two branches of government. The other would be to elect appellate court jurists by region or by district such as we do with members of congress and the state legislature.

Merit selection received little support from the business owners and CEOs with only 12 percent favoring such a process. Twenty-three percent said we should continue to elect judges and justices in a statewide election. A solid majority, 58 percent  said they favor electing jurists by district.

The general trend of the Keystone Business Climate Survey results relative to the court was to support giving voters more say in holding appellate court judges and justices accountable. Those Supreme Court justices who staged the re-districting coup won’t stand for retention for eight years. The only accountability mechanism currently available is impeachment by a 46 percent to 32 percent margin survey respondents said the legislature should impeach the offending justices.

Although some members of the General Assembly have proposed doing just that it won’t happen. Why? Because such a move requires political courage; and political courage in Pennsylvania is about as rare as unicorns and purple squirrels.

Mr. Henry is Chairman CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal

Pa Judges Corrupt As Legislature, Governor

Court Created Congressional Mess

Court Created Congressional Mess

By Leo Knepper

Court Created Congressional MessThe Pennsylvania Supreme Court released its version  (see image) of the congressional districts map on Monday.  As we noted previously, the Court lacks authority under the Pennsylvania Constitution to draw districts. It is likely that Republicans will file suit in federal court to stop the Court-created Congressional districts from being used in the 2018 elections. One avenue for seeking a federal injunction is summarized by Justice Max Baer, the lone Democrat to dissent from the final opinion:

“While I have expressed my misgivings with allowing an election to proceed based upon a constitutionally-flawed map, I continue to conclude that the compressed schedule failed to provide a reasonable opportunity for the General Assembly to legislate a new map in compliance with the federal Constitution’s delegation of redistricting authority to state legislatures.[US Constitution, Article 1, Section 4]

“My skepticism regarding the time allotted the Legislature has been borne out. Democracy generally, and legislation specifically, entails elaborate and time-consuming processes. Here, regardless of culpability, the Legislature has been unable to pass a remedial map to place on the Governor’s desk for signature or veto. Under these circumstances, Pennsylvania and federal law permit the use of the existing, albeit unconstitutional, map for one final election.” [Emphasis added]

A second issue is the Court’s districts do not minimize the number of splits to local governments (i.e., townships, municipalities, counties, etc.). An analysis by Amanda Holt found that the districts adopted by the Court resulted in more splits (79) than the district maps submitted by Republicans (61) and a separate plan offered by the Senate Democrats (60). You may not recognize her name, but Ms. Holt’s research in 2011 was the primary evidence used to throw out the state House and Senate districts for constitutional reasons. Her current finding is significant because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated in their original decision that local governments could only be split to ensure equal population. Furthermore, as she notes on her blog, the fact that the Court’s districts are drawn with more splits could demonstrate to a federal judge a lack of “good faith effort.”

The high likelihood of another lawsuit being brought by Republicans to the federal court regarding the Congressional districts means the issue is still up in the air. We will keep you posted as the story continues to develop.

Mr. Knepper is executive director of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania.

Court Created Congressional Mess

 

Gerrymandering Bad, Court Decision Worse

Gerrymandering Bad, Court Decision Worse

By Leo Knepper

On Jan. 22, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an opinion striking down the Congressional districts adopted in 2011. The decision requires that new districts be adopted by the General Assembly and approved by the Governor by Feb. 15. If new Congressional districts are not adopted by that time, the Supreme Court will establish new districts. (Why the plaintiffs waited six years to bring the lawsuit is open for discussion. However, a cynic would note that it coincided nicely with Democrats obtaining a majority on the Supreme Court.)

The timeline of the case or even the timeline required for the adoption of new districts is not the biggest problem. What is most concerning is the Court’s threat to adopt districts it devises should its timeline not be met by the legislature. Nowhere in the Pennsylvania Constitution is the Judiciary delegated the responsibility of creating legislative districts. The power to create Congressional districts is reserved for the General Assembly. The Judiciary may invalidate the General Assembly’s districts and require new maps to be drawn. The Supreme Court’s threat to create and adopt its own maps represents a dangerous departure from the separation of powers.

Make no mistake, some of Pennsylvania’s Congressional districts were among the most outrageous examples of gerrymandering in the country. The Court has the ability and authority to invalidate the districts, but it does not have the authority to impose its own districts. This would represent a dangerous precedent and makes the judiciary a super-legislature. If the Supreme Court is successful in seizing the power it has just granted itself out of thin air, we have more significant problems than poorly drawn districts. From redistricting, it is only a short distance to the Courts writing and adopting a state budget if the General Assembly doesn’t get it done in time.

The General Assembly adopted awful Congressional districts six years ago. The problem should have been addressed then via the Constitutionally provided remedy. In the long term, significant redistricting reform is necessary, and that can be accomplished via legislation or changing the state constitution. The Supreme Court’s decision represents a threat to the separation of powers, and that shouldn’t be taken lightly by anyone.

Mr. Knepper is executive director of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania.

Gerrymandering Bad, Court Decision Worse

Gerrymandering Bad