Thursday, September 14, 2006


This just in from friend Tim Potts at DemocracyRisingPA. It confirms our worst fears about the Pennsylvania Supreme Court under Chief Justice Ralph Cappy. Here are all the gory details of another major setback for the citizens of Pennsylvania. [We should have bagged both justices last November!]:

Democracy Rising PA News
September 14, 2006


The PA Supreme Court today:
· upheld the way the pay raise was passed;
· declared “unvouchered expenses” to be unconstitutional but allowed lawmakers to keep them – and the higher pensions resulting from them; and
· declared the non-severability clause “unenforceable,” thereby upholding the pay raise for some 1,200 judges throughout the state and local judicial system – including back pay to the date the pay raise was repealed last November.

This is a conspicuously bad decision by a court that has conspicuous contempt for citizens. It is further evidence of the need for a Citizens’ Constitutional Convention to assert the rights of citizens and to reform our courts. Here’s what the decision means to us:

1. The Supreme Court has declared again -- as it did in the gambling case – that stealth legislation is OK with them. They unanimously chose to ignore what the Constitution plainly says, what it plainly meant when it was written, and what the citizens plainly want from their government. From now on, the legislature will use this patently unconstitutional procedure any time it wants to hide what it’s doing from the people, knowing that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania will not lift a pen to defend the democratic rights of citizens.

2. The Supreme Court’s ruling allows lawmakers to profit from an admittedly unconstitutional act The Court said lawmakers who took the unvouchered expenses “acted in good-faith reliance on the presumption of [the pay raise law’s] constitutionality.” Of course, there was nothing but bad faith in the way the pay raise was enacted – not one shred of good faith in the entire year-long process that was hidden from the citizens.

3. The legislature and the governor have abused the presumption of constitutionality that the court relies on. And now the Supreme Court has supremely abused the citizens’ presumption that the courts are fair and unbiased. None of those presumptions is valid, and none of those abuses will go unpunished.

4. The Court of Common Sense will remember this decision next year when judicial retention elections take place. The Supreme Court has given Pennsylvania citizens no choice but to vote off the bench every judge – at every level – who agrees with this gross misinterpretation of our Constitution.

5. This decision is further evidence that Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and others are right to take our cause to federal court. This ruling makes clear that Pennsylvania citizens can have no confidence that their Supreme Court is capable of making legally sound decisions that are faithful to the Constitution and the most fundamental principles of representative democracy.

6. The General Assembly and Governor should do two things as soon as practicable with due regard for the Constitution’s legislative due process rights of citizens that the Court has rejected:
  • Repeal the pay raise for all future judges who are not already on the bench. This will create a two-tiered payroll system, but there is no other choice to return control to the citizens over what they pay their public servants.
  • Create an independent panel, like the federal government’s Base Re-Alignment and Closure Commission, to regularly recommend salaries for public officials subject to approval by the General Assembly without amendment.
7. The decision blatantly contradicts Chief Justice Ralph Cappy when it says that “this Court did not play any role in the enactment of the legislation that became Act 44.” The Court’s assertion requires Cappy to release records of every meeting between himself and members of the other branches so that citizens can see whom he met, when, and what effect those meetings had on drafts of what became Act 44. The Court owes the citizens either an apology for this assertion or proof of its truthfulness.

8. Rumor has it that Gene Stilp is fitting the Pay Raise Pig for a judicial robe!

Tim Potts,
Democracy Rising PA
P.O. Box 618,
Carlisle, PA 17013

Thanks, Tim, although the news is bad, it is certainly not unexpected. We know Cappy is less than ethical to start with, and now we know it has spread to the rest of the state courts. Greed wins another round.

I'll bet this really frosts the legislators since the Judges all get their pay raise, all the way back to July of 2005. What a sick deal.

There is no shame in Harrisburg on the part of any elected officials including the judges, and that is a major problem. Get out your brooms for November!


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