Monday, February 05, 2007

Penn Patriot: Judicial Stupidity

(From the VoicePA Editor)
This past Monday PCN President Brian Lockman sat down with Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy of the State Supreme Court to discuss the issue of Judicial Independence
Click Here for the PCN press release). Joining Chief Justice Ralph Cappy in the panel discussion was U.S. District Judge John E. Jones, Edward W. Maderia, Jr. of the law firm of Pepper Hamilton and Kenneth G. Gormley, President-Elect of the Allegheny Bar Association.

The show should have given Pennsylvania voters and reform leader’s valuable insight into just where individuals in our state's legal and judicial establishment stand on the issue of state reform.

Throughout the show Cappy and the panelists repeatedly defended the pay raise. All of them stated that they never understood why the pay raise caused so much outrage. They even went as far as to criticize Pennsylvania voters for not retaining former Justice Russell Nigro. Basically, the panel's position was that Russel Nigro had nothing to do with the pay raise and voters were "misinformed" about Nigro's record. Cappy even used Nigro's failure to win retention to make a case that justices should be appointed instead of having to face the wrath of voters.

All of the guests on the show were lucky that PCN didn't accept calls from the public. I sure felt the urge to call in and give him a piece of my mind.

As I watched Cappy and the other panelists spew their pompous rhetoric and give us bogus reasons why our state judiciary deserves some sort of elite status within our state political system, I kept thinking to myself how exactly did someone like Cappy ever became the Chief Justice of our great Commonwealth. Do we really want to give these guys more freedom when they have failed to perform their basic job duties?

In my opinion the job of a Supreme Court Justice is really quite simple. You listen to a particular case and decide whether or not a particular law or issue violates our state constitution. Apparently, this job is very difficult for Cappy considering that he negotiated a pay raise with legislative leaders that was later ruled unconstitutional by his colleagues on the same court he is supposed to be in charge of.

As you can guess Cappy and others in our judicial establishment just don't get it. They still think they deserved the pay raise and they don't think that our political system needs reformed. They even said our state judicial system is the best in the country.

That brings us to the issue of leadership, something that I think our state judiciary is seriously lacking right now.I never thought Justice Nigro lost his retention vote because of the pay raise. He lost his retention because our State Supreme Court's failure to provide the leadership that our state constitution requires of it. If you want to blame someone for Nigro's defeat blame yourself Chief Justice Cappy and your failure to lead.

--(Posted By PennPatriot to VoicePA at 2/02/2007)

VoicePA is dedicated to covering the news and opinions that shape Pennsylvania Politics. Check out VoicePA Blog at and please forward our link to a friend. Thank You!

1 comment:

Tim Potts said...

The most fundamental reason for Justice Nigro's defeat was his -- and every other current Justices' -- misinterpretation of our Constitution. They have allowed the legislature to engage in gut-and-run lawmaking that violates both the plain language and the historically unambiguous intent of Article III. Not only do citizens have the power to remove judges who misinterpret the Constitution; they have the duty to do so.

Similarly, it strikes me as unacceptable for the salaries of state judges to be automatically tied to those of federal judges. One of the fundamental rights of citizens is the ability to decide what they want to pay their own public servannts. The General Assembly needs to repeal this scheme before the next increase in federal salaries, which is expected to occur this summer.

The General Assembly then needs to establish an independent commission, like the BRAC Commission, to set levels of compensation for public officials, subject to an up or down vote by the General Assembly without amendment.

We have an opportunity to turn the pay raise scandal into a system that truly earns the confidence of citizens while paying public servants appropriately. Let's work toward that goal.