Their View: Partial integrity no virtue

The following editorial appeared in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Thomas Kistler appeared to have impeccable credentials when Gov. Tom Wolf nominated him to fill one of two Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacancies on an interim basis. But the process revealed two personal flaws. One is a reflection of the age. The other is an exercise in obfuscation.

Kistler, a Republican and president judge in Centre County, withdrew his name from consideration after it was revealed that, in 2013, he had forwarded a racially charged Christmas email to not just one person but to 22 people.

We certainly do not condone such a thing. But in this advancing Internet age, forwarding questionable emails has become a cottage industry unto itself. However, for a judge to do so clearly impugns his impartiality; his Common Pleas seat also should be in jeopardy.

Kistler acknowledged his deed, though he rationalized the racial overtones. Then he did his reputation no favors in his official withdrawal by not mentioning the email controversy. Instead, he cited upheaval in his court system for which he previously had made no issue regarding his nomination.

The Kistler withdrawal also scuttled the “one-for-one” nomination of Democrat Ken Gormley. Wolf now won’t nominate anyone to fill the vacancies. The state Supreme Court will operate with five justices (a 3-2 majority for Republicans) until two new ones are elected this fall.

But the object lesson from the Kistler mess must be that partial integrity isn’t integrity at all.