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State of Pennsylvania

History of Reform Efforts: Pennsylvania

Formal Changes Since Inception

1776
Under Pennsylvania's original constitution, all judges were appointed to seven-year terms by a twelve- member executive council, whose members were elected by voters of the state's twelve counties.

1790
All judges appointed for life by governor.

1838
All judges appointed by governor with senate consent. Tenure of supreme court justices changed to fifteen years; tenure of court of common pleas judges changed to five years, except presiding judges who served ten years.

1850
Constitution amended to provide for partisan election of all judges. Vacancies filled by gubernatorial appointment until next election.

1874
All judges elected by the people. Tenure of supreme court justices increased to twenty-one years; justices not eligible for reelection. Tenure of all other judges increased to ten years. Two-thirds senate approval required for interim appointments.

1895
Superior court created.

1913
Appellate judicial elections changed from partisan to nonpartisan. Candidates prohibited from revealing party affiliations on the ballot or in their campaigns.

1921
Act of 1913 repealed; appellate judicial elections made partisan again.

1964
Governor Scranton became the first Pennsylvania governor to use a form of nominating commission to assist in selecting candidates to fill judicial vacancies.

1968
Under new constitution, judges chosen in partisan elections, with retention elections after initial ten-year terms. Provision authorized voters to consider in the 1969 primary election whether judges should be appointed by the governor from a list of nominees submitted by the judicial qualifications commission. Commonwealth court created.