PA Supreme Court 2015: Newspaper endorsement roundup

Voters can be influenced by a variety of endorsements from business, labor and environmental groups.

Other groups, such as the League of Women Voters, ask the candidates questions and release nonpartisan voters’ guides. PublicSource’s nonpartisan voters’ guide will be released on Monday, Nov. 2.

And then there are newspaper editorial boards, which often meet with candidates and make influential endorsements.

Three of the seven seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will be up for grabs on Nov. 3, and the remaining members are evenly split 2-2 along party lines.

The three Democrats are Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue, Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge Kevin Dougherty and Superior Court Judge David Wecht.

The three Republicans are Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey, Adams County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael George and Superior Court Judge Judith Olson.

The lone independent candidate is Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge Paul Panepinto.

So far, four Pennsylvania newspapers have announced their endorsements, and there’s a fair amount of consensus. Olson and Wecht were endorsed by all four newspapers and three endorsed Donohue.

The Philadelphia Inquirer - Donohue, Olson, Wecht

The Inquirer’s editorial board wrote that Donohue “stands out not only for having served on the panels responsible for disciplining judges and attorneys, but also for understanding the system's excessive secrecy and sluggishness.”

They liked Olson’s “emphasis on respect for the law, the system” and that she has consistently done well in the polls while not raising lots of money.

Wecht earned the editorial board’s endorsement because he “has a breadth of judicial experience unparalleled in the field, having been a prolific author of appellate opinions as well as an advocate for more consistent handling of family cases in Pittsburgh.”

The Harrisburg Patriot-News - Donohue, Olson, Wecht

The Patriot-News also felt Donohue was uniquely qualified to serve on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court given the recent scandals. She “previously served as a member of the court's Disciplinary Board and the Court of Judicial Discipline,” according to its endorsement.

The editorial board liked Olson because, “We found her a forceful and articulate advocate for integrity and transparency.”

They also liked Wecht’s five-point plan for transparency on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and lauded Wecht for creating “a system known as ‘One Family, One Judge’ that provided badly needed consistency in very sensitive family court matters.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Donohue, Olson, Wecht

The Post-Gazette endorsed Donohue, in part, because, “she is a forceful advocate for improved representation for indigent defendants and wants to depoliticize the workings of the court.”

They called Olson “an advocate of judicial restraint” for what she said about how judges must interpret the laws separate of their own personal beliefs about what the law should do.

The editorial board also liked Wecht’s “One Family, One Judge” program and his proposals to include television cameras in the courtroom and mandatory ethics training for judges and lawyers.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - George, Olson, Wecht

The Tribune-Review was the only newspaper of the four to endorse George. They described him as possibly the “softest spoken of the candidates but his fealty to integrity is a loud, clear and consistent clarion.”

The board noted Olson’s lengthy legal career and said she “will play an integral role in helping to remove the high court's tarnish.”

They called Wecht “the exemplar of what an appellate judge should be.” They said he’s spoken out against the close relationships between lawyers and judges during the campaign.

Reach Eric Holmberg at 412-315-0266 or at eholmberg@publicsource.org. Follow him on Twitter @holmberges.