Bill White: "Our appellate judges have made it clear that when the interests of the legislative bosses or the judges' own wallets are involved, the Pennsylvania Constitution comes in a poor second. That -- and the general level of mediocrity in our state courts -- is why I intend to vote 'no' in any retention election for a state judge. If you know enough about one of these individuals to separate the wheat from the chaff, fine, but when in doubt, kick 'em out."
Morning Call: "Our view is that while a protest against the Supreme Court, which has not been an effective check on the abuses of the General Assembly is understandable, a top-to-bottom 'no' vote is irresponsible. Displeasure with the Supreme Court shouldn't indiscriminately be translated into displeasure with the other appellate courts. Voters have a duty, hard as it is, to evaluate whether the other jurists should continue serving. Most do. Some don't."
I agree with voting "no" as a general default position. Our judges, on all levels, have forgotten that their right to sit in judgment of others comes from the people. It's not some sort of divine right bestowed upon them as superior people. But here's my problem. I've news-googled every appellate judge up for retention, and have yet to see a single article from the mainstream media that profiles any of them. Without any help, how can anyone "know enough about one of these individuals to separate the wheat from the chaff?" Instead of just telling us to vote against everyone, wouldn't it make more sense to actually inform the reader?
When the MSM refuses to supply us with the information on which we can make a meaningful decision, it's telling us to vote NO. That just opens the door for Governor Rendell to appoint another judge for every one we reject.
On the left sidebar, I have links to blogs about appellate judges up for retention. I tried to research as much as I could about each, spoke to lawyers who appear in front of them, and read ten opinions by each jurist. Yet, proud as I am of this work, these judicial summaries lack the objectivity, credibility or reach you'd find in a news account.
Justice Thomas Saylor - No!: Although Saylor strikes me as a decent man, I believe we can do better on the state's highest court. From his disingenuous dissent in the judicial payraise to his Big Brother view of government, we will suffer the loss of more individual liberties if he remains on the bench. His long residence in Harrisburg, coupled with his willing participation in judicial excesses, reveal him as an insider. Final confirmation of his allegiance to special interests comes from his campaign treasury. I'm voting NO.
Judge Joan Orie Melin - No!: Melvin might be a gifted politician, but she's not a gifted judge. Her attempt at legal intimidation could be expected from a major corporation, but a slapsuit from a sitting judge is bizarre. And her second suit over the payraise is pure grandstanding. Her money gathering, especially from lawyers, is obscene. And her contrarian opinions reveal an utter lack of compassion.
Judge John Musmanno - Yes!: Musmanno is a judge. He served a full term as a trial judge before even thinking about an appellate court. When he did seek a seat on the superior court, he attended to his judicial duties first, unlike some of his colleagues. He has consistently tackled the Superior Court's more thorny legal questions, but his opinions demonstrate that he still understands what life without a black robe is like. I will vote to retain Musmanno.
Judge Correale Stevens - Yes!: While Judge Musmanno may be the superior court's long ball hitter, Stevens is their utility player. Day in and day out, he has been a workhorse. Not the usual judicial elitist, he is responsive to the people, has conducted town halls, speaks out on issues and even answers email. His decisions are conservative, but well-reasoned. I will vote to retain Stevens.
Judge Bonnie Leadbetter - Yes!: On her web site, Leadbetter makes one request. She asks voters to judge her "on what I have done and not on what others may have done." I'll be voting to retain her.
Judge Bernard McGinley - Yes!: So long as you keep Judge McGinley away from anything to do with sports, he's a very clear and fair-minded judge. Lawyers who practice before him seem to like him. The Pa. bar makes this observation, "He treats lawyers fairly and courteously and is held in the highest regard for his legal knowledge and analytical abilities." I'll be voting to retain him, but I don't think he can count on too many votes in Eldred Borough.
Judge Doris Smith-Ribner - Yes!: Despite her individual desire for privacy, Smith-Ribner has been a judicial voice for state reform. She promotes open records, detests de facto racial segregation, refuses to go along with municipalities that abuse condemnation powers, upholds campaign finance limits and believes you have a right to know that your vote counts. It's ironic that those who promote much-needed state government reform, would advocate her ouster.