HARRISBURG, PA--Four Pennsylvania Senators say they are pushing for legislation to reform the state’s judicial nominating process, calling for more information about the individuals the governor picks to fill vacant seats to be made public.
A news conference this week to announce Senate Bill 978 came just hours before the state Senate voted 42-7 to affirm the nomination of Drew Crompton to fill an opening on the Commonwealth Court, an appellate-level court that hears cases involving state and local governments.
Nominated by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, Crompton served for nearly three decades as a legislative counsel, currently working as the chief counsel for state Sen. Joe Scarnati, the Senate President Pro Tempore.
While his name was mentioned in the news conference, state Sen. Anthony Williams, the Democratic whip in the state Senate, said he didn’t want to make it “the Drew Crompton Show.” While saying it was fair to call into question Crompton’s credentials, Williams – who voted for Crompton – said his issues with the process began well before that particular nomination.
“I don't want to draw to just one singular personality because I think that frankly, it underwhelms the argument for change,” the Philadelphia senator said. “It makes it more difficult for people to digest that. It could be a Democrat. It could be a Republican. If they don't qualify, they don't qualify.”
However, his colleagues at the presser certainly didn’t have qualms speaking out against a candidate they felt was unqualified. State Sen. Katie Muth, D-Royersford, said she wasn’t in Harrisburg to “appease the governor.” State Sen. Lindsey Williams, D-Pittsburgh, spoke out against a process that she said allowed nominations to be made in backrooms.
State Sen. Maria Collett, D-Lower Gwynedd, said she came away concerned about Crompton’s qualifications after questioning him in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday morning.
“He has never practiced law outside of these walls, and that's problematic when we're putting someone on the court that doesn't have a varied level of experience and a varied level of experiences dealing with people from different walks of life,” she said.
Muth, Collett and Lindsey Williams were among those who voted against Crompton.
The senators’ bill does have the support of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts. Maida Milone, the group’s president and CEO, said the organization has pushed for a merit-based process to fill vacancies for 30 years.
“I do see this legislation as a step in that direction by making the nomination process much more open and transparent to everyone and allowing for more public participation in the process,” she said.
published here with permission of The Center Square