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Pennsylvania to Conduct Historic Judicial Elections in 2015

April 10, 2015

by Irwin W. Aronson, Esquire

In 2015, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will hold statewide judicial elections that will have a long-lasting impact on all Pennsylvanians, and it is imperative that everyone vote. For the first time in the 243-year history of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, the Commonwealth will conduct elections to fill three vacancies on the seven-member court. 

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is the highest court in the Commonwealth, exercising jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters, and all matters of disputes involving administrative agency law. The Court addresses a wide range of issues affecting working families, from the right to organize unions, to the right to workplace and family security, to our rights to free speech, association and religion, to our fundamental right to vote. Because of the unprecedented number of vacancies, 2015’s PA Supreme Court elections stand to shift the balance of power on that court for years to come.

In addition to the unprecedented Supreme Court vacancies, the 2015 elections will also fill vacancies on Pennsylvania’s two intermediate appellate courts - the Superior Court and the Commonwealth Court. The Superior Court is the appellate court of general jurisdiction, while the Commonwealth Court exercises jurisdiction over matters related to state agencies and other cases in which the government is a party. The Commonwealth Court plays a very important role in relation to issues of concern to every person working in Pennsylvania, as it exercises jurisdiction over state administrative agency law including unemployment compensation, workers’ compensation, Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, public education matters, liquor sales and distribution, public employee pensions and much more.

Judicial elections are particularly important because, unlike most elected official, judges are elected to 10-year terms. And once elected, judicial officers merely stand for “retention” elections every 10 years. Only in the rarest occasions has a sitting judge lost a retention election. It is so rare, in fact, that only one Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ever lost a retention election in that Court’s entire history.

Thus, while Pennsylvania will not conduct a presidential or gubernatorial election this year, the 2015 elections will nonetheless identify the persons who will decide matters of public importance for all Pennsylvanians, and who likely will do so for many years to come. 

Pennsylvania’s primary election is May 19, 2015, with the polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Make sure you and your family members vote.  For more information regarding the 2015 elections, election law, or issues affecting workers and unions, please contact any of the Labor and Employment attorneys at Willig, Williams & Davidson.

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