Most of us will not have a direct encounter with a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice, or Superior or Commonwealth Court judge, but we should care about who is elected. Electing qualified, capable and value minded judges is just as important, or maybe more so, than electing the president, governor or lawmakers. As part of our checks and balances system, the courts are the third equal branch of state government. Their role is to preserve the rule of law and guarantee the rights and liberties of citizens. Disputes are brought before the court seeking a fair resolution that upholds the Constitutions of Pennsylvania and the United States of America. Judges make decisions that affect everyone, including who has a right to life, what is marriage, when should religion be protected, who can adopt children, and many other important questions.
The challenge with judicial elections is finding information about the candidates on which to base your voting decision. Although a federal court clarified that candidates can talk about issues, out of fear that their comments might prejudice future court cases, candidates for judicial office often do not share their personal positions on controversial issues. However, many special interest organizations do evaluate candidates based on their record or other public evidence of their philosophy. These groups often endorse one candidate over another.
We can understand a lot about candidates by reviewing their lists of endorsements. Catholics might be interested in a candidate’s stand on human life, marriage, social justice or other issues. An endorsement from the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation (NOTE: The PA Pro-Life Federation will publish its voter guide here a few days before the election) or LifePAC, or Planned Parenthood or EqualityPA, an LGBT advocacy group, gives us a clue about the candidates’ views on abortion and marriage. The support of public education associations could, although not absolutely, shed light on how a candidate might feel about school choice. Endorsements from other like-minded political leaders who do speak out about issues can also provide insight into the philosophy of the candidate. It is said a person is known “by the company that he or she keeps.”
Every voter should take time to research the candidates. Many non-partisan organizations such as the League of Women Voters or your local newspaper publish voter guides, often including endorsements and answers to questionnaires. The Pennsylvania Family Institute publishes a voter guide that touches on many issues that are also important to Catholics. But the most effective way to research is to contact the candidates themselves. Most judicial candidates have their own websites or social media sites which proudly list the endorsements they received. Those up for retention have their resumes on the court system website.
Who we elect to the bench sets the stage for how rights, liberties and justice will be upheld in public policy. We have a responsibility to elect judges who will be fair and responsible, and represent the values that make Pennsylvania great.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court – Vote for three
- David Wecht (D) – http://www.wecht2015.com
- Christine Donohue (D) – http://donohueforjustice.com
- Kevin Dougherty (D) – http://www.doughertyforpa.com
- Anne Covey (R) – http://www.coveyforjustice.com
- Michael George (R) – http://www.judgemikegeorge.com
- Judith Olson (R) – http://electjudgejudy.com
- Paul P. Panepinto (I) – http://www.judgepanepinto.com
Pennsylvania Superior Court – Vote for one
- Alice Beck Dubow (D) – http://www.judgealicedubow.com
- Emil Giordano (R) – http://www.emilgiordanoforjudge.com
Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court – Vote for one