Friday, September 14, 2007

When lawyers attack

One day after PACleanSweep announced a campaign to defeat all Pennsylvania judges facing retention votes on the Nov. 6 ballot, the state's lawyers have struck back.

Andrew F. Susko, president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, issued a statement Friday condemning the PACleanSweep effort, dubbed "Judicial CleanSweep."

Susko said the group's call to oust all Pennsylvania judges on the ballot was irresponsible and he asked voters to consider the "judges' experience, qualifications, or judicial record" before deciding to cast a "Yes" or "No" vote.

"Judges should not be ousted from office as a group just because some disgruntled advocacy group says so," Susko said. "This misguided effort to 'clean' house would make a mess of our courts and would threaten severe, lasting damage to our court system."

Pennsylvania judges face retention votes every 10 years.

PACleanSweep is urging voters to defeat all 67 judicial candidates up for retention in November. The group unveiled its campaign during a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg Thursday morning and added a new Judicial CleanSweep section of its Web site at

Russ Diamond, chairman of PACleanSweep, said voters must hold judges accountable for their role in the July 2005 pay raise, which was approved by the Legislature, signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell and portions of which were upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

"The twisted judicial pay raise decision by the Supreme Court and the fact that every single judge in the state has benefited from it is the first issue every Pennsylvanian needs to consider," Diamond said. "We'll be offering more valid reasons to vote 'no' over the next seven weeks, but this is one that grates on citizens more than most."

PACleanSweep, which was instrumental in the defeat of Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro in 2005 and removal of 55 incumbent legislators in 2006, intends to give voters 10 reason why they should vote "No" to retain all judges on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The state's lawyers, many of whom may want to be judges some day, don't see it that way. To read Susko's full statement, go to the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Web site at

To read PACleanSweep's arguments to reject all judges, go to its Web site at

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