Cutler Bill to Increase Public Confidence with the Courts Passes Committee
HARRISBURG – Legislative language drafted by Reps. Bryan Cutler (R-Peach Bottom) and Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) to ensure a fair, impartial and qualified judiciary by establishing a merit-based system for appointing statewide appellate judges passed the House Judiciary Committee.

“This bill aims to increase the confidence that the public has in the courts. As it is now, who becomes a judge is influenced too much by politics and campaigning,” Cutler said. “We need to redirect the focus for such important positions.”

“Merit selection would allow us to choose judges based on qualifications and merit, minimizing the influences of partisan politics and campaign money. Legal experience, reputation for ethical behavior, honesty, fairness and good temperament would take precedence over judges’ ballot position, campaign fundraising abilities or where they live,” Dean said.

Merit selection would be a hybrid appointive-elective system. A bipartisan citizens’ nominating commission of lawyers and non-lawyers selected by elected officials would review applicants’ qualifications and recommend a short list to the governor for nomination. After Senate confirmation, a judge would sit for a four-year term before standing for a non-partisan retention election for a full 10-year term and then every 10 years thereafter.

The constitutional amendment would establish an Appellate Court Nominating Commission consisting of 13 members: five appointed by the governor (no more than three from one party and none from the same county) and eight by the General Assembly (two from each of the four caucus leaders, half lawyers and half laypeople). Commonwealth employees, elected or appointed officials and political party officials would be prohibited from serving.

The change would apply only to the three statewide appellate courts: Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth courts. Judges on the courts of common pleas, magisterial district courts and Philadelphia Municipal Court would still be elected as they are now.

Since House Bill 111 is a proposed state constitutional amendment, it must pass the Legislature in two consecutive sessions and then go before the voters in a public referendum.

The bill now advances to the full House for consideration.

Representative Bryan Cutler
100th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Alison Evans
717.260.6206 /

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