Merit retention elections are for current, sitting judges who are seeking to be re-elected – or retained – at the end of their 10-year terms. These judges are seeking another 10-year term, and they are not running against anyone. Rather, voters are being asked – via a “yes” or “no” referendum – whether these judges should remain on the bench based on their performance, qualifications and merit. In Pennsylvania, retention elections are held every-other year during the general election, typically the first Tuesday in November.
The ACBA offers a rating of either “Recommended” or “Not Recommended” for all Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas judges seeking retention, as well as Allegheny County-based judges seeking retention on the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, Superior Court or Supreme Court. All ACBA members – attorneys who often practice in front of these judges – are surveyed, asking whether each judge should be retained based on each judge’s performance, reputation and temperament.
Unlike ratings for candidates seeking to be elected for judge for the first time, there are only two possible ratings for retention judges: Recommended and Not Recommended.
JUDICIAL CANDIDATE RATINGS
The below is an explanation of the ACBA’s process for rating candidates running for judge (not those judges seeking retention).
The ACBA Judiciary Committee is required by ACBA By-Laws to interview and evaluate all candidates seeking appointment to/or running for a seat on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. Candidates for the Court of Common Pleas who do not submit applications for interviews and evaluations receive a rating of “Not Recommended.” The Judiciary Committee may interview and evaluate Pa. Appellate Court candidates who have their principal offices in Allegheny County or reside in Allegheny County, at the request of that candidate.
A. Exhibits pre-eminence in the law by way of outstanding legal ability and a wide range of experience, either in a specialized field of law or a more varied practice and has a reputation in the legal community as standing at the top of his or her profession.
B. Possesses a reputation for the utmost integrity and temperament to excel as a judge of the court for which he/she is a candidate.
C. Exhibits outstanding citizenship by way of community and professional contributions.
D. Is an exceptional individual who will enhance or has enhanced the competence, dignity and public perception of the bench.
The candidate possesses a reputation for the utmost integrity and the legal ability, experience, and temperament to excel as a judge of the court for which he or she is a candidate.
At the time of the Committee’s evaluation process, the candidate has not demonstrated to the Committee that the candidate processes the legal ability, character, reputation, experience or temperament for a judicial position.
The Allegheny County Bar Association Board of Governors reviews the ratings of candidates prepared by the Judiciary Committee. The ratings are published when authorized by the Board of Governors.