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January 11, 2022

Philadelphia Bar Association Issues a Statement in Opposition to House Bill 38

The legislation would disenfranchise all voters and put judicial independence at risk.

Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Wesley R. Payne, IV, issued the following statement in opposition to Pennsylvania House Bill 38, which proposes to amend the State Constitution to create representative districts for appellate judges.

“House Bill 38 would take away our voice as Pennsylvania voters to elect appellate judges, who every day make decisions on cases drawn from across the state that have statewide impact,” Payne said. “Currently, voters have a say in the election of all 31 judges on the state Supreme Court, Superior Court and Commonwealth Court. If this measure is passed, voters would be eligible to cast a ballot for just three – one Supreme Court judge, one Superior Court judge, and one Commonwealth Court judge. Instead of casting a ballot for a statewide judge nearly every year, voters would only do so once a decade.”

“The legislation also puts judicial independence at risk,” Payne continued. “Our appellate court system is statewide by design, ensuring that a judge’s only constituency is the law. The Philadelphia Bar Association has always been a strong advocate for judicial independence and for electing a qualified, diverse pool of judges at both the city and statewide level. House Bill 38 is a threat to both judicial independence and the quality of our judiciary, to the detriment of all who reside in the Commonwealth.”

The House may vote on the bill as soon as this month. If it is passed by the full General Assembly this session, the measure would go before voters in the May primary. To learn more, visit the Philadelphia Bar Association's Legislative Action Center

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