Support HB 1336 and SB 44, the Merit Selection Bills

Please support House Bill 1336 and Senate Bill 44, which would introduce merit selection of appellate court judges in Pennsylvania.

The 2015 election for Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was the most expensive judicial election in the history of this Commonwealth. Negative ads, paid for by special interest groups, filled the media.

Now is the time to change the way appellate court judges are selected in Pennsylvania. House Bill 1336 and Senate Bill 44, currently pending in the General Assembly, would replace partisan judicial elections with a merit selection system for our three appellate courts.

Merit selection is a hybrid, balancing appointment of appellate court judges with periodic retention elections for sitting judges. House Bill 1336 and Senate Bill 44 call for the creation of an Appellate Court Nominating Commission, consisting of thirteen members: five chosen by the governor and eight chosen by the General Assembly, including members of each party, lawyers and laypeople. Members of the Commission would reflect the geographic, gender, racial and ethnic diversity of the Commonwealth.

The Philadelphia Bar Association, which has supported merit selection for more than 50 years, is strongly in favor of these bills. As proposed, the merit selection system will ensure a qualified bench that will deliver justice in a fair and unbiased manner, thus boosting the public's confidence in our courts.

It is anticipated that House Bill 1336 will be presented for a vote in the House of Representatives very shortly. As the creation of an Appellate Court Nominating Committee would require a constitutional amendment, this legislation would have to be passed in two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly.

The Philadelphia Bar Association urges its members to contact their state legislators to discuss with them the importance of merit selection and ask them to vote for House Bill 1336. A personal contact, either face-to-face or by telephone, can be highly persuasive. An incisive letter is another effective tool to get your point across. Use the format letter on this page to get started. Be sure to personalize the letter to increase the likelihood that your point of view will be noticed. Take action today on the issues that will make Pennsylvania a better place to live and work.