Plan Advances to Elect Appellate Court Justices & Judges By District
ARRISBURG – The House Judiciary Committee today passed legislation authored by Rep. Diamond (R-Lebanon) that would reflect greater diversity in court elections by dividing Pennsylvania into nine Commonwealth Court districts, 15 Superior Court districts and seven Supreme Court districts.
Currently, though Allegheny and Philadelphia counties account for 21.8% of Pennsylvania’s total population, 54.5% of the state’s appellate court seats are held by residents of the two counties.
The new districts to be created by House Bill 196 would be defined by the General Assembly following the redistricting principles found in the state’s Constitution, requiring populations as equal as possible in each district with compact and contiguous geographic boundaries. Candidates for appellate seats would be required to reside in the district they seek to represent.
“Regional appellate court elections – as opposed to statewide elections – will go far in halting this disproportional dominance and more accurately representing Pennsylvania’s diversity. This is critical as our courts arrive at important legal decisions that impact every citizen in the Commonwealth,” Diamond explained.
Appointments and incumbency need to be considered in discussions regrading appellate court elections because an interim appointee, as an incumbent, is more likely to win a subsequent elected term of his or her own. It is also more likely that a jurist elected to one appellate court will be considered for an appointment to a higher appellate court.
Eleven other states select judges and justices for either some or all of their appellate courts via regional judicial district elections: Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.
“Pennsylvania is a diverse Commonwealth, and our appellate courts ought to reflect that diversity in political and regional perspectives. My legislation would improve the chances that voters can identify with candidates for appellate court seats,” Diamond added.
As the bill received support from the committee, it now goes before the full House for consideration.
Diamond has introduced the bill in the two previous legislative sessions.
Please visit RepDiamond.com for a report containing data on every individual who has served on one of Pennsylvania’s appellate courts in the last 50 years, indicating a stark imbalance in the courts in favor of Allegheny and Philadelphia counties.