Merit selection of judges versus direct election by voters? That's been debated for years. Does it really matter? This is Pennsylvania. Where else but the Keystone State would a judge indicted for insurance fraud run for reelection?
According to The Associated Press, Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Michael Thomas Joyce of Erie vows to continue his bid for a second 10-year term despite a federal indictment.
The indictment alleges Joyce of bilking insurance companies out of $440,000 in fraudulent claims after a traffic accident, the AP reports.
Joyce is not legally required to step down because the charges do not directly involve his court-related duties, Joseph A. Massa Jr., chief counsel for the state Judicial Conduct Board, told The Associated Press.
The Judicial Conduct Board investigates and prosecutes charges of misconduct by judges, according to the AP.
While Joyce is innocent until proven guilty, voters can make up their own mind about the judge's fitness to continue on the bench on Nov. 6. That's when voters get to cast a "Yes" or "No" vote to allow Joyce to continue on the court for another 10 years at an annual salary of $165,000.
Having an elected official (a judge no less) under indictment is nothing new in Pennsylvania, which rivals Louisiana for political corruption.
After all, this is Pennsylvania, where state Sen. Vincent Fumo, D-Philadelphia, faces a 139-count federal indictment for conspiracy, fraud, obstruction of justice and filing false income tax
Fumo continues to wield enormous influence in the state Senate and plans to seek re-election in 2008, when his trial is expected to start.
This is Pennsylvania, where elected officials are routinely convicted of corruption. See Philadelphia, where "pay to play" is on the official city seal.
Now you know why judicial races are so important. If we can't trust the integrity of our judges, where does that leave us? To learn more about the November races for statewide judicial office, I recommend going to: http://www.democracyrisingpa.com/ and clicking on the "Justice On Trial" button.