The merit retention provision of Pennsylvania’s constitution allows all but magisterial district judges to be retained with a simple “yes” or “no” vote without ballot reference to political affiliation. This provision was designed to remove judges from the pressures of the political arena once they begin their first term of office. Magisterial district judges run in competitive elections. Mandatory retirement age for judges is 70 years, but retired judges may, if approved by the Supreme Court, continue to serve the commonwealth as senior judges.
JUDGE OF THE SUPREME COURT (RETENTION)
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is a court of last resort that sits only en banc and presides over a mixture of direct and discretionary appeals. Every Supreme Court justice votes on every matter, including direct appeals, capital appeals (direct and collateral), allocaturs, discretionary appeals, Children’s Fast Track matters, gaming appeals, grand jury appeals, legislative redistricting appeals, King’s Bench petitions, certified questions from federal courts, election appeals, emergency petitions, petitions for review, judicial disciplinary matters, attorney disciplinary matters, recommendations from eight rules committees and six court-related boards, miscellaneous petitions, ancillary matters and pro se matters. The court’s complement of seven justices is not supplemented with senior justices, and when the court is shorthanded, as it was for over a year recently, the remaining justices must take on the added workload. Most often, but not exclusively the court reviews requests for discretionary appeals from the Commonwealth Court and Superior Court, direct appeals from a lower court’s decision, including when a death sentence is issued, requests to intervene in a lower court’s proceedings, and requests to deliver a body from illegal detention.
Retention candidates appear at the end of the ballot in the form of a question “Shall (candidate’s name) be retained for an additional term as (office sought)?”
(Vote yes or no)