Call to Action

Say NO to judicial districts.

Say NO to gerrymandering the courts!

In a very close vote, PA House Bill 38, a constitutional amendment to change how we conduct judicial elections in Pennsylvania, passed the judiciary committee, and now moves to the full House for a vote.
This proposed change to our PA Constitution would disenfranchise every voter in the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania’s voters would no longer have a voice in the selection or retention of every appellate judge who would be the ultimate and final say on cases about our lives and communities. Appellate courts hear cases on appeal and are sometimes called high courts.
We need your help to ensure every legislator hears that their constituents want them to vote NO on this attempt to gerrymander our judicial elections. The independence of our courts and our very democracy is at stake. For more information go to pmconline.org
Call or email your PA House Rep. ASAP!!!
A vote on HB38 is expected this week!
(Phone numbers below talking points)
Script:

  • Hello. My name is ________. I live in _________.
  • I’m calling to ask Rep. _______ to vote no on House Bill 38 (HB38) which is a constitutional amendment that proposes to elect judges to Pennsylvania’s appellate courts by regional districts. Electing high court judges by regional districts is wrong for Pennsylvania.

Talking Points:

HB38 is wrong because:

1. For the higher courts, we want judges who are best able to interpret the law for the entire Commonwealth, not pit regions against each other. The high courts make decisions and rulings that have statewide impact; decisions apply to all Pennsylvanians and are not subject to specific geographic regions.

2. Voters already elect judges on a local level. The Court of Common Pleas is divided into 60 regional districts with 450+ judges who are elected and hear cases from their regions. Additionally, there are 550+ judges serving on Courts of Limited Jurisdiction who hear local cases and are elected locally.

3. By changing the election of appellate court judges from every voter in Pennsylvania, to voters in districts drawn by the party in control of the Legislature, the General Assembly could effectively gerrymander the courts. Judicial districts could be drawn to punish specific justices or drawn to elect handpicked judges to swing the balance of the court.

4. For our governmental system of checks and balances to work, it is essential that the judiciary remain independent of the legislature. The drawing of district lines by legislators, as proposed in HB 38, would interfere with the independence of the judiciary and open the judges to be influenced by the interests of the legislature.

5. HB38 places priority on geographic location over the qualifications of the individual. HB38 would allow a judicial candidate to have lived in the proposed district for only 12 months!

6. Currently, PA voters cast votes for all 31 judges of the high courts. Under HB38, a voter could only vote for one judge for each of the three high courts (Commonwealth Court, Superior Court, Supreme Court), thus disenfranchising Pennsylvania voters.

7. Some proponents of HB38 cite a partisan divide; however, 16 of the current higher court judges are Republicans, and 14 are Democrats.

8. A better process to consider for the selection of high court judges may be one based on merit. See memorandum by Republican State Rep. Paul Schemel

9. HB38 is a constitutional amendment. We need public hearings, expert testimony and bipartisan support. To date, there have been no public hearings, no expert testimony and no bipartisan support.

Call and/or Email:

1) Your representative — to find your rep and his/her email

2) Republican Speaker of the House Cutler

3) Republican Majority Leader Benninghoff

District | Representatives | Capital Number | District Number

101 | Francis Ryan | (717) 783-1815 | (717) 838-3823

102 | Russ Diamond | (717) 787-2686 | (717) 277-2101

103 | Patty Kim | (717) 783-9342 | (717) 772-3570

104 | Sue Helm | (717) 787-1230 | (717) 651-0100

105 | Andrew Lewis | (717) 783-2014 | (717) 652-3721

106 | Tom Mehaffie | (717) 787-2684 | (717) 534-1323

It’s important to also call:

PA House Speaker Bryan Cutler (717) 783-6424 (717) 284-1965

Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (717) 783-1918 (814) 355-1300

Groups outside of government that oppose HB38:

          • Pennsylvania Bar Association

          • Committee of Seventy

          • Common Cause PA

          • Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts

          • Pennsylvania Association for Justice

          • Central Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council

          • Pennsylvania AFL-CIO

          • Services Employees International Union (various branches)

          • Women’s Law Project

          • Philadelphia Federation of Teachers

          • Just Harvest

          • We the People

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