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Monday, September 18, 2006
Posted 11:18 PM by

Pa. judges lack merit, play politics, candidate says

Campaign money, not justice, is driving judges in Philadelphia, according to Jim Matthews, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.Although this isn't directly connected to last week's pay raise ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Jim Matthews claimed today that politics are influencing judges in the state's biggest city.

To which I reply: No duh.

Ever look around this state before, Jim? Some folks still carry the black bag for their party.

The Republican candidate didn't go quite that far, but alleged that there are Philly judges who keep tabs on how active defense attorneys are in making political contributions. He claimed it was a "50- to 55-year-old problem."

Try closer to 200-years-old.

It was probably only ever interrupted when the British briefly regained control of the city during the Revolution.

"It's wrong when the people's hopes and justice are affected by who plays and who doesn't play in support of judgeships," Matthews told reporters at a state capitol news conference.

He suggested merit selection of judges may be a better way to pick them.

Alan M. Feldman, chancellor of the 13,000 member Philadelphia Bar Association, called Matthews' accusation "a crock" and said he should either present evidence or apologize.

"It is an outrageous and irresponsible statement," Feldman said. "This is the worst kind of accusation that could possibly be made about a judge."

Yeah, right.

Apparently, Feldman has stuck his head in the sand in recent years while the highest court in the Commonwealth has ignored the state constitution to suit its own purposes.

That, to me, is even worse than a judge showing party loyalty.

I think a better solution than letting politicians pick the people who will don black robes, is to free up what questions judicial candidates can be called upon to answer when queried by the public.

Republican Lt. Gov. candidate Jim Matthews advocates merit selection for judges. Is it the right way to go?Right now, state bar association and Supreme Court rules prevent would-be judges from commenting about their past rulings or how they would rule in hypothetical cases in the future.

Without knowing where they stand, how is anyone supposed to judge a judge?
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