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Oct 13, 2021

Low Profile, High Impact: Electing Pa. Judges More Vital Than You Think

Alex Fabian McMahonBy Alexandra Fabian, PICPA manager of government relations


Every two years, Pennsylvania voters elect judges at every level of the court system, from municipal courts to the state Supreme Court. Such is the case in this odd-numbered year, when judges and magisterial district judges are the primary focus of the Nov. 2 general election. These elections are typically referred to as “municipal elections” because there are no federal or state offices on the ballot. (For municipal election results please visit www.electionreturns.pa.gov.)

It’s no secret that municipal election years tend to lack the luster of general election years, resulting in low voter turnout. But don’t fall into that sense of complacency. The decisions made during these elections will have resounding public policy impacts for years to come. Judges carry a hefty load of responsibilities that can affect the CPA profession and your community, such as ensuring that laws are followed fairly, setting legal precedents, and maintaining equal justice under the law.

"Vote" buttonPreparing to vote in judicial elections can be overwhelming, particularly in sorting out what each court does, what the endorsements mean, and the sheer number of names that appear on the ballot. The good news is PICPA’s government relations team is here to help. The PICPA team and members of Certified Public Accountant Political Action Committee (CPA-PAC), the political arm of the PICPA, interviewed Pennsylvania judicial candidates up for election in November. A series of well-thought-out, unbiased questions provides you with a high-level overview of the candidates competing for a seat on the bench.

Meet the Candidates

Supreme Court

The state Supreme Court is the highest court in Pennsylvania and the oldest appellate court in the nation. Seven justices serve on the court, and their job is to make final judgment in interpreting Pennsylvania’s laws and constitution. One seat is open because Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, a Republican, has hit the court’s mandatory retirement age of 75. The candidates are:

Commonwealth Court

Pennsylvania is one of only a handful of states that has two separate intermediate-level appeals courts: Commonwealth Court and Superior Court. The nine-judge Commonwealth Court decides civil disputes involving the state itself and hears appeals against decisions made by state agencies, including the Department of Revenue. Four candidates are seeking two Commonwealth Court openings.

Superior Court

Superior Court has one vacancy this year due to Republican Judge Susan Gantman retiring. The intermediate appeals court handles civil and criminal cases from counties, and it is said to be among the nation’s busiest state appeals courts.

Important election details, such as how to register to vote, where to locate your polling location, and much more, are available on the Department of State website.

For more insight on the candidates, check out the 2021 PA Judicial Voter Guide from the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform, of which the PICPA is a member.

Judicial elections are very important in Pennsylvania, particularly those for the state Supreme and Commonwealth courts. Both courts rule on issues impacting individuals, business taxpayers, and tax policy.

We encourage you to educate yourself on the candidates so you can make an informed decision about who to cast your vote for on Nov. 2. Your vote matters!


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2 comments

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  • Alex Fabian | Nov 04, 2021
    Thank you Colleen! We appreciate your comment.
  • Colleen Kimball | Oct 14, 2021
    Don't forget about the district justice elections as well.  These too are important and we have a PICPA member running in Newtown - Mark Zinman.  He'll make an excellent DJ!

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    Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.