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PMC Discusses Potential Court Reforms in 2015

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

Democrats Endorse Two for PA Supreme Court

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.

PA Courts See 23 Percent Increase in Online Payments in 2014

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.

New Washington County Court Hearing Arrangement Could Increase Efficiency

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.

New Rules for File Access Considered by PA Courts

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.

Survey: Trouble for Limited English Speakers in PA Courts

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.

Pennsylvania House Approves Raising Judicial Retirement Age from 70 to 75

The constitutional amendment that would increase Pennsylvania’s mandatory judicial retirement age from 70 to 75 passed through the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Tuesday. The amendment will move to the Senate next and, if approved, will appear on the ballot for final approval by voters.

Judge Ballentine Suspended for Second Time after Failing to Pay Taxes

Pennsylvania’s Court of Judicial Discipline suspended Lancaster City District Judge Kelly Ballentine without pay on Friday, following a hearing that took place on Thursday in Harrisburg. Judge Ballentine was charged with failing to pay her state and federal income taxes for several years (between 2009 and 2013).

Wolf Nominates Two to PA Supreme Court

On Wednesday, Governor Wolf named two nominees to temporarily fill vacant seats on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court: Duquesne University School of Law Dean and Professor Ken Gormley and Centre County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Thomas Kistler. The vacancies exist due to the mandatory retirement at age 70 of Chief Justice Ronald D.

Bills Increasing Mandatory Retirement Age for PA Judges Moves Forward

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.