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State of Pennsylvania

History of Reform Efforts: Pennsylvania

Unsuccessful Reform Efforts

The legislature created the commission on constitutional revision, also known as the Woodside Commission. The commission's majority report recommended a "Pennsylvania Plan" for selecting judges, which called for gubernatorial appointment of judges from a list submitted by a nonpartisan nominating commission.

The Governor's commission on constitutional revision recommended the adoption of merit selection. The issue was deferred until the constitutional convention of 1968.

Following the constitutional convention of 1968, the merit selection question was submitted to the voters in the 1969 primary election. The proposal failed by a narrow margin due to the opposition of powerful party leaders.

The Pomeroy Commission, headed by former supreme court justice Thomas Pomeroy, endorsed merit selection of judges.

Governor Casey established by executive order the Pennsylvania judicial reform commission, also known as the Beck Commission. The commission recommended a merit selection plan with nonpartisan retention elections.

Two virtually identical merit selection bills were introduced in the house of representatives and senate in the 1989-1990 session of the general assembly. SB 594 passed the senate but stalled in committee in the house. HB 941 was defeated in the house. A third bill (SB 1300), calling for regional elections of appellate judges, was defeated in the senate.

The special commission to limit campaign expenditures, appointed by the supreme court in 1997 to study judicial campaigns, recommended that the general assembly enact legislation for public funding of judicial campaigns and allow voters to decide whether to adopt an appointive system for appellate judges.