Soros Funding PA for Modern Courts

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By Dan Pero

Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts (PMC) – a group funded by billionaire hedge fund titan George Soros – is trumpeting a new poll that purports to show broad public support among Pennsylvania voters for replacing democratic elections with a "merit" selection system for choosing judges. But what the poll really demonstrates is the extent to which the "merit" selection crowd will go to manipulate polling data to suit its ideological ends.

PMC claims, for example, that 93% of Pennsylvanians "want the opportunity to vote on whether Pennsylvanians should change the way we select" judges. Sounds impressive. But in the PMC poll (, respondents are asked this question only after three other "questions" (see #s 41, 42 and 43) describing recent judicial scandals in Pennsylvanians. In politics, this technique is called a "push polling"– a device used to manipulate public opinion, rather than illicit it. Besides, who is going to say they don’t want the "opportunity to vote" on almost any question?

PMC also reports that 62% of Pennsylvanians favor "merit" selection. To arrive at this result (see question #16), PMC presents a view of "merit" selection loaded with inaccuracies and deceptions. The "merit" panel is described as an "independent, broad-based committee of citizens" – when in reality, most "merit" panels are dominated by legal elites. The lead up to the question also suggests that the role of voters would be preserved through retention elections. Of course, retention elections serve only to create the illusion of voter accountability and wind up merely rubber stamping the judges selected by the "merit" panels.

The PMC press release also leaves out some interesting data indicating that Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly believe elected judges are doing a good job. For example, 79% describe Pennsylvania judges as "qualified" (#20) and 73% (#19) believe they are "fair."

Three out of four Pennsylvanians also believe "merit" selection won’t take politics out of judicial selection and could even make the selection of judges "more political" (#36). Nearly 7 out of 10 say "merit" selection transfers the power to choose judges from voters to "politicians and trial lawyers." (#37).

Of course, none of this is in the PMC press release.

To borrow a quote variously attributed, Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts – and the whole Soros-bankrolled campaign to abolish democratic elections – use polling data the way a drunk uses a light post: more for support than illumination. Suspect polls are a favorite tool to generate the impression that the "merit" selection movement is based on a grassroots uprising, rather than a well-funded campaign by elites.

For about 20 years, Pennsylvania legislators – who are closer to the people than any jerry-rigged poll – have shunned "merit" selection and protected the right of citizens to vote for their public servants on the bench. Let’s hope they continue to keep faith with Pennsylvania voters in the face of even more special interest pressure.

Dan Pero is President of the American Justice Partnership and editor of the AmericanCourthouse blog (