Delco re:View Fall 2017 - 16

Statement of Delegates to the
1968 Constitutional Convention:
Why We Re-elect Judges
by Retention
Editor's Note: The following is a statement issued recently
by some delegates to the 1968 Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention in affirmation of the merit retention


he delegates to the 1968 Constitutional Convention
wanted to ensure that Pennsylvania judges, after
serving an initial term in office, would be re-elected
in a nonpolitical manner based on the merits of their performance in office. The Constitution born of that convention provided, for the first time in Pennsylvania history,
that judges were to be reelected not in partisan political
contests but by a new method called retention. When seeking re-election, each judge would have the opportunity
to stand before voters on his or her record in a neutral,
nonconfrontational referendum. Voters would approve
or disapprove each judge with a "yes" or "no" vote. This
re-election method was designed to keep judges out of
the political fray, while at the same time holding them accountable to the voters based on their overall performance
in office. Under the retention system, the public is able to
evaluate its judges while the judges are able to maintain
their independence which is essential to their role in our
democratic system of government. In making retention
part of the Constitution, the delegates to the Constitutional
Convention hoped and expected that voters would evaluate judges not on any single issue or decision, but rather on
their full records and with the understanding that the sole
duty of all judges is to uphold the law, uninfluenced by any
form of outside pressure. We, the undersigned delegates of
the 1968 Constitutional Convention, believe it is important
that all Pennsylvania citizens understand in this election
year why we have a retention system for reelecting judges.
We hope voters will honor the spirit of the Constitution and
judge their judges fairly in November.
Gov. William W. Scranton, Lackawanna County
Lee A. Donaldson Jr., Allegheny County
Holbrook M. Bunting Jr., Delaware County
John W. Keller, Franklin County
Robert J. Butera, Montgomery County
Joseph M. More, Philadelphia County
William F. Clinger Jr., Warren County
Dorothy K. Tully-Montone, Cumberland County
Robert E. J. Curran, Delaware County
Marvin Comisky, General Counsel, Philadelphia

16 | Fall 2017


A Strong Constitution

continued from page 16

The highlights of changes to the Pennsylvania Constitution
which resulted from this convention are:
* Legislative apportionment
* Limitations on the ability of the state government to
borrow money based on tax revenues, budgeting, and
financial planning
* Provision of home rule for all units of local government
However, some of the most significant constitutional
changes enacted in 1967-1968 affected the state judiciary.
Two of the most important accomplishments were the
establishment of a unified judicial system and the creation
of the Commonwealth Court, a second appellate court in
addition to the Superior Court. Also, the method by which
judges were re-elected to the Bench after their initial terms
was changed dramatically. Instead of being re-elected in
partisan political contests, judges would now be "retained"
based on their records. The public would be able to evaluate
candidates for judicial retention based on their performance
on the bench and vote accordingly. The goal of this particular
change was to insulate judges from having to run political
re-election campaigns, and the idea of retention helped to
insure that judges were evaluated for re-election based on their
qualifications and judicial independence.

After 50 years, is it time for another constitutional
Note: If one were to occur, it would be the eighth
constitutional convention held in the state history. The last one
was convened on December 1, 1967 and ended on February 29,
1968. With 50 years passing since the last convention; that is
the longest stretch of time the state has gone without taking a
look at its constitution.

Friends, Colleagues, Titans of the Delaware
County Bar Association, all from Chester, PA ...

Names from the East End: Sweeney, Hannum, Gorbey,
McGovern, Pileggi, Pappano, Damico, Kassab, and Nolan
Names from the West End: Blumberg, Arthur and Melvin
Levy, Semeraro, Connors, and Eckell
Pictured: Robert E. J.
Curran, Sr., Esq., with
James C. Brennan, Esq.
"Bob Curran was always
ornery. He used to bomb
me with snowballs in the
neighborhood while I was
delivering papers on my
paper route. This is the
same guy that was appointed
the United States Attorney
for the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania by President
Richard M. Nixon! And now, he presents to me, the 'Golden
Geezer' Award in 2017."

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