High Court Fundraising Case Could Hinder Pa. Judicial Reform

January 27, 2015 – In The News

Abe Reich was quoted in the Law360 article “High Court Fundraising Case Could Hinder Pa. Judicial Reform.” Full text can be found in the January 27, 2015, issue, but a synopsis is below.

The U.S. Supreme Court weighing the constitutionality of a Florida ban on judicial candidates personally soliciting campaign funds has advocates of judicial merit selection in Pennsylvania worrying that overturning the ban will introduce even more friction into the state’s flawed system for choosing judges.

A ruling against the Florida Bar Association would mean the end to the Keystone State’s own prohibition that keeps potential and sitting judges from making pitches for cash.

Being one of 30 states that prohibit personal solicitations in judicial campaigns, Pennsylvania is also one of only six states that elect all judges in partisan elections.

Reform-minded attorneys in the state, who have focused their efforts on replacing elections with appointments for statewide appellate courts, agreed with other court watchers that the prohibition is one worth keeping.

“If there’s no proscription on a judge’s ability to personally solicit contributions, at a real granular level, this would change the relationship between judges and lawyers,” stated Abe Reich.

Some degree of direct solicitation already occurs in Pennsylvania, in spite of the prohibition and violations can occur even when judges know better.

“Can I candidly say that judges don’t ask for support?” Reich posed. “No, of course not."

Reich emphasized that while these requests were now exceptions, they would become the rule with an adverse Supreme Court ruling, noting that this was a tool that most judges would prefer not to have at their disposal.