Oct. 20, 2015

HARRISBURG – Legislative language drafted by Reps. Bryan Cutler (R-Peach Bottom) and Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) to separate politics from the Commonwealth’s justice system by establishing a merit-based system for appointing statewide appellate judges passed the House Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support today.

“Merit selection is a superior method for choosing our statewide appellate court judges. The integrity of our justice system demands that we select judges based on more than voter turnout, name recognition or fundraising ability,” Cutler said. “We should be looking for the members of the bar with the highest qualifications, not just the best political skills.”

Merit selection would be a hybrid appointive-elective system. A bipartisan citizens’ nominating commission of lawyers and non-lawyers selected by elected officials would review applicants’ qualifications and recommend a short list to the governor for nomination. After Senate confirmation, a judge sits for a four-year term before standing for a non-partisan retention election for a full 10-year term and then every 10 years thereafter.

The constitutional amendment would establish an Appellate Court Nominating Commission consisting of 13 members: five appointed by the governor (no more than three from one party and none from the same county) and eight by the General Assembly (two from each of the four caucus leaders, half lawyers and half laypeople). Commonwealth employees, elected or appointed officials and political party officials would be prohibited from serving.

Since House Bill 1336 is a proposed state constitutional amendment, it must pass the Legislature in two consecutive sessions and then go before the people in a public referendum.

The bill now advances to the full House for consideration.

Representative Bryan Cutler
100th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Alison Evans
RepCutler.com / Facebook.com/RepBryanCutler