Friday, July 3, 2020

When the Wolf at Your Door is Your. . . Governor

When you have a state Supreme Court whose justices are elected in statewide partisan campaigns, you get . . . partisan decisions.

Our Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Supreme Court voted, largely on partisan lines (4-3), to authorize Governor Tom Wolf's nearly dictatorial powers. Our Republican legislature, weary of an uncollaborative, arbitrary, and increasingly capricious process, voted overwhelmingly - with bipartisan support - to end the Governor's "emergency" declaration.

This Forbes article gets it right: "But Pennsylvania’s story took a turn that few saw coming: once the legislature acted, Governor Wolf refused to relinquish his special powers and end the State of Disaster Emergency. It turns out the governor has gotten used to ordering people around without a legislature to get in his way—not unlike the tyrannical ruler Pennsylvania colonists overthrew once before during the American Revolution."

I hope the legislature approves for the next available election (too late for this year) not one but two Constitutional amendments. First, to require legislative approval for any emergency declarations in excess of 30 days. Oklahoma and a few other states have similar statutes. And to replace the partisan election of state Supreme Court and Commonwealth Court (appeals court) members with judges nominated by the governor but requiring confirmation of the State Senate.

This is sadly not the first time that the state Supreme Court has engaged in partisan chicanery. Some 2 years ago, they brazenly redrew the state's congressional districts, robbing the legislature of their powers, and in apparent violation of the state's own Constitution. The result helped give House Democrats flip at least 4 congressional districts across the state, including mine, which magically went from an R+4 district to a D+13 seat (admittedly, the R+4 district was badly gerrymandered as well). The Supreme Court declined a GOP request to intervene.

Elected judges, perhaps except at the local and county levels, are a menace to justice.

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