If there was any doubt left that the Lancaster County Republican Party has been taken over by the anti-facts, anti-intellectualism, anti-professionalism MAGA Trump wing of the national Republican Party, their county chairman’s recent criticism of the Lancaster Bar Association’s revised Judicial Evaluation Process and his bullying of GOP judicial candidates eliminates that doubt.
An independent judiciary is fundamental to America’s democracy. In a county like Lancaster where one party dominates county-wide elections, it is doubly important to have a fair mechanism for evaluating judicial candidates as to their “legal ability, experience, integrity, and temperament”– an evaluation most voters would admit is beyond their expertise, unlike their ability to assess the typical public policy office holder. That is why the familiar “highly recommended”, “recommended”, and “not recommended” ratings from a peer review of judicial candidates are the voters’ most relied upon objective assessments. And why it is and has been standard procedure throughout Pennsylvania for at least 30 years and almost universally accepted by Pennsylvania lawyers and judges, all of whom are members of the bar.
But, apparently not by the Lancaster County Republican Chairman! He has “asked” GOP judicial candidates “not to take part” in the bar’s vetting process, and to their dishonor, most have complied. It’s not as if the bar’s revised process is less thorough or transparent. Just the opposite is true! Here’s what four current Republican Lancaster County Republican judges have said: “(We) support …the positive and significant changes the Lancaster Bar Association has made to the judicial candidate review process…” “We are extremely pleased to see that you have addressed both the depth and transparency of the process. These changes have…rendered your process much more fair to the candidates as well as increased the value of your evaluations.” That’s quite a recommendation! The Republican County Chair strongly disagrees and responded: “I find it absolutely unacceptable” that judges who the Republican Party endorsed and elected and who went through the bar’s previous evaluation process would support efforts to improve the process of their own bar association. “I strongly condemn these actions,” he said.
What’s really going on here? “Why would the Republican chairman be opposed to this?” the LNP editorial board asked. The truth is that the leadership of Lancaster’s Republican Party, including its County Commissioners, can’t accept that some Republican judges don’t follow their orders and their radical MAGA ideology, just as Donald Trump “condemns” Republican judges who rule against him. The last thing these Republican leaders want is “competent, experienced, unbiased arbiters of the law.” Instead, it seems some powerful Republican voices prefer a candidate who they are afraid the bar association and its member lawyers and judges would find blatantly unqualified and this is the way to get him or her elected.
Tom O’Brien, Chair
Lancaster County Democratic Committee