When voters go to the polls next Tuesday, they will face the daunting task of determining the candidates best qualified to be judges, often despite having scant acquaintance with the candidates or much knowledge about their backgrounds.
Unfortunately, judicial elections are something of a lottery or at least a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey (or elephant). Although extraneous factors that shouldn't matter -- like a familiar name or one that suggests an ethnic affiliation -- do matter, the system of electing judges has a self-correcting mechanism.
That corrective is the retention election. Whatever follies disengaged voters might perpetrate the first time around, they can correct these mistakes eventually if they are so inclined -- although "eventually" comes only once every 10 years. Still, in a flawed system, it is something.
It also presents an easier task for the voters. Because of their clientele, judges are apt to make enemies, but most people are going to judge the judges on their overall record. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, the proof of the jurist is in the observing, especially if any signs of controversy suggest a red flag.
Although the degrees of their ability may vary, most judges settle down after their election and get on with the job. In practice, it is quite rare for controversies to give rise to campaigns against a judge's retention and rarer still for such campaigns to succeed.
None of the judges on the Allegheny County ballot this year set off alarms. All of them have been endorsed for retention by the Allegheny County Bar Association. With only one exception, all have been endorsed in the past by the Post-Gazette (if not initially, then for retention or for higher office).
We endorse the following judges for retention:
For Superior Court, Kate Ford Elliott.
For Commonwealth Court, Dan Pellegrini.
For Allegheny County Common Pleas Court: Kim Berkeley Clark; Robert J. Colville; Kim Diane Eaton; Paul F. Lutty Jr.; Jeffrey A. Manning; Kevin G. Sasinoski and Gene Strassburger.