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Why should I care?

Voters will be choosing the judges on your own county’s Court of Common Pleas — who decide cases every day that affect local families and businesses. Their decisions often impact families more than legislative votes.

Perhaps even more critical is the selection of a new Justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and new judges for the other statewide courts, the Superior and Commonwealth courts. It is Supreme Court justices in states like Iowa and Massachusetts that have ordered legalization of same-sex marriage. Who sits on our courts is of critical importance.

It’s not a presidential election, so what’s the point?

Just as it is essential to care about the individuals that serve as your President or Governor or state legislator, those that we elect to the Pennsylvania courts also fulfill an important role within the checks and balances of state government.

With their ability to strike down laws and order government officials to take certain actions, judges can have tremendous influence on how government operates and how it impacts your life.

Judges are supposed to base their actions on legitimate sources of authority, such as the state constitution or the language of a law. Unfortunately, some judges put their personal or political agendas ahead of the law when they decide to act as legislators. They take it upon themselves to fix “problems” that they believe the legislature has ignored or has mishandled. This practice is called “legislating from the bench” or “judicial activism.”

Marriage – Will it remain as one man, one woman in Pennsylvania? It may end up being decided by even one justice on our court!

Did you know that same-sex marriage has been decided by narrow margins of activist courts in other states? Beginning with Massachusetts in 2004, but later in states like New Jersey, California and Iowa: High courts issued orders to those state legislatures, throwing out existing marriage laws and ignoring the will of the people in those states. It could happen here!

The Courts, Redistricting, and Legislative Elections

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has jurisdiction over appeals involving legislative redistricting. Redistricting is done the year following the federal census every 10 years, due next in 2010. The drawing of legislative districts can impact the make up of the General Assembly as the drawing of district lines impacts the competitiveness of districts. Many legislative districts are seen as “safe” for a particular political party because of the make-up of the voters within the district. The end result: it could mean less of a choice in who represents you!

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