Two bills that would increase the mandatory retirement age from 70 to 75 for judges in Pennsylvania passed through the House Judiciary Committee this week. House Bill 89 and House Bill 90 would amend Pennsylvania’s constitution, and must therefore pass in two consecutive sessions and then be placed on the ballot to be passed by voters.
With an unprecedented number of openings on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2015, nearly one dozen judges and lawyers who hope to run are seeking the endorsement of their respective parties. Some see obtaining an endorsement from the Democratic or Republican party as a crucial aspect of running a successful campaign.
The Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission (PBA JEC) has released its ratings of potential candidates running for the Pennsylvania Supreme, Superior, and Commonwealth Courts in 2015. There will be three open seats on the Supreme Court, one on the Superior Court, and one on the Commonwealth Court in the election this November.
Washington DC (January 20, 2015) – Today, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Williams-Yulee v. the Florida Bar on whether Florida’s ban on judicial candidates personally asking for money violates their First Amendment rights. Pennsylvania has a similar ban.
Former Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Michael Lowry received a 20-month prison sentence on Wednesday for perjury. U.S. District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel additionally sentenced Lowry to a year of supervised release and 100 hours of community service.
With an unprecedented number of vacancies on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court in 2015, more than sixteen candidates have expressed interest in running for one of three open seats. Commentators speculate that the amount of openings combined with Pennsylvania’s laid-back campaign finance laws could lead to an unprecedented amount of money flooding in from outside special interest groups.
Pennsylvania now has over 100 “problem-solving” or “treatment” courts. These courts divert non-violent offenders from jail and place them in various treatment programs. PA’s problem-solving courts include DUI courts, drug courts, veterans courts, and mental health courts. The first treatment court in PA was launched in 1997 in Philadelphia.
There are three open seats on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court in 2015, and over a dozen judges and lawyers have already expressed interest. The openings are a result of Justice Castille’s retirement and the resignation of former Justices McCaffery and Orie Melvin in the wake of scandals.
The Inquirer’s recent editorial, Courting Contempt, discusses the importance of holding judges to high standards, and some of the failings of Pennsylvania’s judicial discipline system in the wake of recent scandals. According to the article, “while the state's judicial conduct rules have been laudably strengthened, their enforcement remains inconsistent at best and nonexistent at worst.”