Three open seats on the bench in the Western District of Pennsylvania that have been empty since 2013 may be filled by the end of this year, the Legal Intelligencer reports. The vacancies make up 30 percent of the Western District’s allotted judgeships.
Governor Wolf has reversed course on the nomination of two prospective judges, Ray McHugh and Brian T. McGuffin, both of whom were previously nominated by former Governor Corbett to serve on the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas. McHugh and McGuffin were among 28 nominations recalled by Governor Wolf shortly after he took office.
The website PoliticsPA.com is hosting a poll allowing readers to choose whether they think Pennsylvania judges should be elected or appointed.
The poll comes in the wake of several controversies involving elected judges in Pennsylvania, including those on the Supreme Court.
On this week’s episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver took on the topic of judicial elections, and discussed why they are so problematic for America’s democracy. John Oliver began his segment with a discussion of Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has ordered state judges to ignore a federal ruling that would allow same-sex couples to marry.
PMC recently published an article in The Legal Intelligencer in which it discussed various court reforms that may take place in Pennsylvania in the near future. The reforms are discussed further below.
Improvements in Access to Justice
The Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee met in Hershey this weekend to decide which judicial candidates to endorse for the upcoming May 19th primary. The party ultimately chose to endorse Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Kevin Dougherty and Superior Court Judge David Wecht.
In 2014, more than $77 million was collected through PAePay, Pennsylvania’s online court payment system. The $77 million constituted a 23 percent increase in payments from the previous year. Through the site, people may pay traffic fines and other court-ordered fines, fees, costs, and restitution.
A new court hearing arrangement in Washington County could reduce the county’s jail population and increase efficiency. For the first time last week, Washington County Common Pleas Judge John DiSalle went to Washington County jail to preside over revocations and bond reduction hearings. According to Judge DiSalle, the process went very smoothly.
The Pennsylvania court system has been developing new rules regarding the public’s access to state common pleas and appellate court files. The new proposal released last week would limit access to certain sensitive information and would standardize procedures across the state.
A survey by the Sheller Center for Social Justice shows that individuals with limited English skills who appear in Pennsylvania courts often lack language assistance. The Sheller Center, part of Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, surveyed 79 magisterial district courts in 20 Pennsylvania counties.