Endorsed Judicial Candidates Sweep to Democratic Victories

The three endorsed Democrats for the PA Supreme Court swept yesterday’s primary election.  David Wecht, Christine Donohue and Kevin Dougherty will attempt to fill three seats on that court in November.  I really like the first two candidates but supported Anne Lazarus for the third slot.  Chief Justice Ron Castille reached the mandatory retirement age, Seamus (Shame US) McCaffery resigned in disgrace after getting caught spreading hundreds of pornographic emails and Joan Orie Melvin was convicted of corruption.

As such integrity and trust are major factors in these races.  Kevin Dougherty, whose brother is infamous union boss John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty of Philadelphia’s IBEW local, has the potential to continue the shameful record of political Justices who get caught doing nefarious deeds.  I won’t vote for him in November.  Instead I’ll write in the name of Superior Court Judge Jack Panella.

Alice Dubow won the race for Superior Court over Robert Colville.  Both are well qualified.  Commonwealth Court will have Michael Wojchik as the Democratic nominee.

The three GOP candidates for Supreme Court are Judith Olson, Michael George and Anne Covey.   Covey ran such a shameful campaign last time she was sanctioned for her smears of her opponent, a civil rights lawyer.  It’ll be interesting to watch how the Democrats use that against her this fall.  After all, this election is about integrity.

It’s unusual for endorsed Democratic candidates to win elections.  The Pennsylvania Democratic Party has a bad record of actually electing its preferred candidates.

Voter ID Headed Back to Supreme Court

In a stark rebuke to the six Supreme Court Justices who ordered him to file an injunction against the Voter ID law for next month’s election a Commonwealth Court Judge disobeyed them today.  Judge Robert Simpson handed down an extremely limited injunction which will only result in a new appeal.  His order says voters can vote without photo ID November 6th but only on a provisional ballot if they don’t provide an ID.

Those provisional ballots won’t be counted for six days likely leaving the presidential election in limbo along with the state’s electoral votes.  If the number of provisional ballots exceeds the winner’s tally on election day the election results will remain up in the air.

How will you know if your provisional ballot will be counted?  Unless you write in a unique name for at least one office you won’t know.  This strange order says that although no ID be mandated those people must use a provisional ballot.  They will not have to produce a photo ID within six days (really two because PennDOT ID centers would only be open for two days) so why force them to use provisional ballots?  This is ridiculous.

Six Justices remanded the case back to this insubordinate Judge with orders to issue an injunction if even one voter was deemed to have their fundamental right to vote disenfranchised.  The Commonwealth cannot prove that event cannot be  avoided so the law should have been struck down completely for this election.  Judge Robert Simpson, an obvious idiot sitting on the bench, refused to do so.  We’ll remember this when he is up for retention.

Supreme Court Hears Voter ID Arguments

PCN telecast the Supreme Court arguments on Voter ID this morning saving me a trip to Philadelphia.  Watching and Tweeting the event I have some hope this terrible law, Act 18, will be, at least, stayed.  Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued for an injunction saying there isn’t enough preparation and time to  implement the law.  They made no argument the law is unconstitutional because it appears to be so under Pennsylvania law.  Since this is a case of state law being argued in a state court only state law applies.  Whether or not the law is constitutional under federal law is a case for the federal courts.  Federal courts have knocked down similar laws elsewhere.  This morning’s arguments have no bearing on federal issues of equal protection for instance.

Cases where legal, eligible voters are denied their fundamental right to vote can not be made until that actually happens.  Unfortunately irreparable harm will already have occurred where votes were not cast and counted that were legal in a federal election.  I didn’t hear much argument about such irreparable harm this morning.   The appellants case sounded weak to me, they simply want an injunction based on the fact the Commonwealth is unable to produce ID’s for voters.

Arguments began about whether the right to vote is fundamental.  The State argued it is not, that the legislature can apply limits on it.  They also went on to try and deny the state’s stipulation that no verifiable case of voter fraud has ever happened either here or elsewhere.  This got so ridiculous Justice Debra Todd finally read the entire stipulation to the Governor’s clueless lawyer.

Justices Todd and Seamus McCaffery asked pointed questions throughout supporting the implementation of an injunction.  Interestingly Republican Thomas Saylor had some very intriguing queries to the state’s lawyers.  His vote may be in play here or he might have been playing devil’s advocate.  One never really knows.  I found arguments that PennDOT is implementing the law specious.  There have numerous reports of the agency charging people $13.50 for the ID’s making this a poll tax.  Others say they’ve taken acceptable forms of identification only to be rebuffed by untrained PennDOT employees and have made repeated trips trying to secure an ID.  If someone has to make five trips to get an ID this law is wrong and unjustifiable.  That imposes an undue burden on voters.

The fact Tom Corbett’s lawyer Mr. Putnam began arguing in court that voter fraud exists was laughable and it destroyed any credibility he had before the Court.  When Justice Todd publicly embarrassed him by reading Corbett’s own stipulation saying otherwise I almost felt sorry for the bastard.  Almost…

Panel Orders Orie Melvin’s Pay Stopped

Justice Joan Orie Melvin will no longer collect her $195,000+ salary while on trial for corruption.  The Court of Judicial Discipline determined her conduct was so “egregious” to necessitate the action.  While a Superior Court Judge she ordered and berated her staff to conduct campaign work in her chambers, on state time and with state resources.  Many legislators and staffers in the State House went to prison for doing the same thing yet, even during those BonusGate trials Orie Melvin had the hubris to do the very same thing while running for her Supreme Court seat.

Sister Janine Orie is also on trial for orchestrating the scheme and sister Jane Orie is in prison after surrendering her Senate seat after her conviction.  A few things seem common to the Orie sisters:  greed, hubris and corruption.

Supreme Court Nullifies Residency Requirement For Petitions

The state Supreme Court unanimously struck residency requirements for nominating petition circulators today.  The move follows a 2002 federal case Morrill v Weaver where Mike Morrill challenged the law successfully in federal court.  State and federal law now agree that any resident of the Commonwealth can circulate petitions regardless of the location of their abode.  This means if you want to circulate nominating petitions for a House or Senate candidate outside your District you may.  Many activists live in areas where there is no challenger or they may know someone running elsewhere and wish to help them get on the ballot. This will also save many candidates from getting bounced from the ballot and save many expensive lawyer’s fees.

Sen. Orie Convicted on 14 Counts

While Tom Corbett was Attorney General and prosecuting House Democrats to get to the Governor’s Mansion Republican Senator Jane Orie was violating the same laws to get her sister elected tot he state Supreme Court.  So said a jury in Pittsburgh which convicted Jane Orie of 14 counts of corruption yesterday.  A lone holdout juror threatened to deadlock the trial over the weekend and resulted in her being acquitted on ten counts but a verdict finally was reached on Monday.

Five of the counts are felonies and the arrogant b*tch will see jail time for her misuse of public resources.  She must wear an ankle bracelet until she is sentenced on May 21st.  At that point she must resign her Senate seat and she’ll lose her state pension.  This is payback for the open and arrogant use of Senate time, staff, resources and offices to help elect both herself and her sister to public office.  She was so open about it and thought she could simply lie her way out of it that it never occurred to her someone might testify they saw it going on openly when they visited her office one day.  That rebuttal testimony undercut every defense her team had concocted for the jury.

Next up is the trial of sister Janine Orie who is accused of using the Senator’s offices and staff to run another sister’s  (Joan Orie Melvin) campaign for Supreme Court.  Melvin sits on that Court under a very dark cloud today.  Thus far she has refused to resign although it is obvious she won the election under false pretenses.

She was acquitted of charges of forgery for the documents which had been altered in her first trial.  They resulted in it being declared a mistrial.  There was no way the prosecution could prove Senator Orie did the forgeries though no one else had a motive.  A jury cannot convict based solely on motive.  Had someone come forward and said they witnessed the crime she might have been convicted on most all of the counts against her.

Should Janine Orie be convicted of corruption for using taxpayer resources to run Melvin’s campaign the Justice will have to resign her seat.  No Justice should sit on our high court and judge others under such circumstances.

Orie May Not Stand for Retrial

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that State Sen. Jane Orie may argue to Superior Court that being retried on public corruption charges would constitute double jeopardy.  In a 6-0 decision (Justice Joan Orie Melvin recused herself) the Court said it is a valid legal argument for appeal.  The trial in Allegheny County centered on allegations Orie used public staff, offices and resources for her and her sister Justice Melvin’s campaigns.  This was an illegal use of taxpayer funds and the trial ended when the Judge declared a mistrial.  The jury was deliberating when it was found that key documents in evidence had been forged and altered.  The Secret Service is examining the documents and Orie could be tried if it is found she had anything to do with their alteration.  For now though it appears she will win her appeal and not be subjected to further legal prosecution for cheating the taxpayers.

Supreme Court Dismisses Tainted Luzerne Cases

In the end justice prevailed.  That isn’t much sympathy for the thousands of youths wrongly incarcerated and denied their rights to due process by two Luzerne County Judges under prosecution for corruption.  The PA Supreme Court dismissed 6500 juvenile court cases from Luzerne County which were involved in a kickback scheme between two Judges and a privatized juvenile prison operation.  Nothing, however, can balance the angst, grief and life interruptions forced upon these 6500 youngsters who were railroaded and then incarcerated, sometimes in shackles.  How do we wipe those memories from the victims of this corruption?  We simply cannot.

Justice was served, or is being served.  The system worked because someone filed an anonymous complaint to the state Board responsible for judicial ethics.  Superior Court Judge Jack Panella headed that Board and the case was referred for investigation.  The U.S. Attorney prosecuting the judges has said Judge Panella did everything properly.

The issue of judicial corruption is hanging over next week’s appellate court elections and should be.  Corrupt judges rigging cases for personal profit is something which appalls us all.  That is why I have endorsed this slate of candidates:

Supreme Court:  Jack Panella

Superior Court:  Anne Lazarus

                Teresa Sarmina

                Robert Colville

                Kevin McCarthy

Commonwealth Court:  Linda Judson

                    Barbara Behrend Ernsberger

It is vitally important we elect judges with high moral standards, judges who will protect our rights and judges who will uphold the law.  Be sure to vote Tuesday because, if anything, the scandal in Luzerne County reminds us all of the importance of these positions.  

Judge Jack Panella on the Issues

Superior Court Judge Jack Panella is running for Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the most important election campaign of the year.  The outcome of this race will determine the majority makeup of the state’s highest court and ethics and integrity promise to be the major issue.  His opponent is campaigning with her sister, a powerful state Senator, and reminding people everywhere of the huge conflicts of interest which arise from that relationship.  Rumors are flying of extremely unethical behavior behind closed doors as the sisters from Erie seek endorsements.

On the other hand Judge Panella is a beacon of trust, ethics and responsibility on the bench.  He addresses the importance of integrity in this video:

Jack Panella grew up in Northampton County and his judicial office is in downtown Bethlehem.  Both of his parents were union members who worked hard raising their children and insuring they could live the American dream.

Access to the system of justice is an important issue for Judge Panella.  Republicans have been campaigning to limit this through what they call “tort reform.”  What tort reform does is insure corporations and businesses from the consequences of their actions when those actions hurt people.  Insuring every citizen has access to justice is one of Judge Panella’s concerns in this election:

Abortion and access for women to reproductive health services is always a hot issue in judicial races.  I heard from many women and progressives last winter who were concerned about his positions in this area.  Considering my involvement with Planned Parenthood Advocates this is a major concern of mine.  Judge Panella and I discussed this several times and he graciously addressed the issue for the voters:

Judge Panella is an inspiration because he stands for the things which concern working people.  He grew up in a working class family and has never forsaken the values instilled in him by his parents.  Through his legal career and ascension to Pennsylvania’s highest court he represents us all.  He is also an inspiring speaker and if you get the opportunity to hear him do so.  Here is his announcement speech:

PA Supremes Punish Payday Lender

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decreed that payday lender Advance America Cash Advance violated usury limits by imposing fees and interest which exceed state law.  

Payday loans such as Advance America provides leech funds from the poor at outrageously high rates.  Theirs impose a $150 fee and 6% interest for a $500 loan.  Former Philadelphia Mayoral candidate Tom Knox made his fortune preying on the poor with such usurious and immoral business practices.  Knox briefly toyed with the idea of running for State Treasurer last year and has his sights set on the Governor’s mansion in 2010.