Common Cause PA Opposes House Bill 196

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Statement of Suzanne Almeida, Interim Director of Common Cause Pennsylvania

House Bill 196 has dangerously re-emerged in the Senate, and was voted out of the Senate State Government Committee in a party-line vote today.

Common Cause Pennsylvania continues to actively oppose House Bill 196, which would establish judicial districts here in the Commonwealth. The role of the judiciary is to decide cases based on the law and the facts in front of them – not to provide political representation for Pennsylvanians in a specific region. Electing judges in expensive, partisan elections by judicial districts subverts the role of the judiciary and encroaches on the roles of the other two branches of government.
Common Cause Pennsylvania advocates for transparency and fairness when it comes to choosing judges and shaping our courts. Ensuring that judges are beholden only to the law and keeping courtrooms fair are keys to building a strong 21st century democracy. We have long supported a merit selection system that would minimize partisan politics, promote racial, ethnic, gender, geographic and other diversity, and essentially eliminate the insidious role of money in judicial politics.

We are also concerned that this bill allows the General Assembly to create judicial districts via future legislation. It is imperative that lawmakers not have sole power to draw district lines of any kind, including the judicial districts outlined in this bill. Common Cause has been on the forefront of the fight for years, advocating that the power must be given to the people because the Legislature has proven itself incapable of drawing districts.

For these reasons, we continue to oppose House Bill 196 and urge all members of the Senate to vote no.

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Read the full testimony of Common Cause Pennsylvania at https://www.commoncause.org/pennsylvania/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2020/07/2020-07-13-Testimony-Common-Cause-PA-HB196.pdf