– Rep. Matthew Dowling (R-Fayette/Somerset) today introduced legislation that seeks to change the makeup of the Judicial Conduct Board and Court of Judicial Discipline to better ensure the appropriate balance of power among all three branches of state government.
“Currently, only the executive and judicial branches have appointees serving on these important entities that are charged with ensuring the integrity of Pennsylvania’s judiciary,” Dowling said. “In order to maintain the appropriate equilibrium between all three branches of government, my proposal seeks to include appointments from the Legislature as well.”
The change would require amending the state Constitution, a process which requires identical legislation to be approved in two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly and then endorsement of the voters in a referendum.
Dowling’s House Bill 1909
proposes to add legislative appointees to both the Judicial Conduct Board and the Court of Judicial Discipline. Specifically, it proposes to add six non-lawyer members appointed by the speaker of the House and Senate president pro tempore to the 12-member Judicial Conduct Board. To the eight-member Court of Judicial Discipline, the proposal would add four more appointments, two non-judge attorneys and two non-attorney electors.
The Judicial Conduct Board is an independent state agency responsible for investigating complaints of misconduct against judges of Pennsylvania’s unified judicial system; and filing formal charges against judges found to have engaged in unethical behavior.
The Court of Judicial Discipline has jurisdiction over all judicial officers in Pennsylvania and adjudicates formal charges filed against a judicial officer. If the formal charges against a judicial officer are sustained, the Court of Judicial Discipline has the authority to impose sanctions, ranging from a reprimand to removal from office.
Dowling’s bill is one of several judicial reform measures being proposed in the state House. Other bills in the package seek to develop a rational policy for judicial salaries and compensation; limit the rulemaking authority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court; create uniformity and consistency in the terms of office for all judges; and eliminate retention elections, instead requiring judges to stand for re-election. Each of these measures would require amendment of the state Constitution.