Four judicial retention questions await Carbon County voters in the General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Requiring a simple "yes" or "no" answer, two of the questions ask voters if they are in favor of the retention of two justices on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, while the remaining two questions ask the same question regarding two judges of the Pa.Superior Court.
The retention questions for the Supreme Court are for Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille and Justice Max Baer. The questions ask if the voter is in favor of them being retained "for an additional term," although in Castille's case, he is facing mandatory retirement next year because he will reach his 70th birthday in March.
Castille, who was sworn in as Chief Justice on Jan. 14, 2008, was elected to the Supreme Court in 1993. Previously, he was Philadelphia's district attorney from 1986-91.
Baer was elected to the Supreme Court in 2003. Previously, he was a judge in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas and a Deputy Attorney General for Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court consists of seven justices, each elected to ten-year terms. The justice with the longest continuous service on the court (Castille) automatically becomes Chief Justice. Justices must step down from the Supreme Court when they reach the age of 70, although they may continue to serve part-time as "senior justices" on panels of the Commonwealth's lower appellate courts until they reach 78, the age of mandatory retirement.
In addition to Castille and Baer, the high court consists of Justice Correale F. Stevens of Hazleton, who was appointed to the court by Gov. Tom Corbett and took his oath of office in July.
Besides that trio, the court consists of justices Seamus P. McCaffery, Debra Todd, J. Michael Eakin and Thomas G. Saylor.
The retention questions for the Superior Court are for judges Susan Peikes Gantman and Jack Panella, the latter being a resident of Northampton County. The questions ask if the voter is in favor of them being retained for an additional term" of 10 years.
Gantman was elected to the Superior Court in 2003. Previously she was in private practice from 1981-2004.
Panella was also elected to the Superior Court in 2003. His election followed 12 years as a trial judge. He was appointed to the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas in 1991 by Gov. Robert P. Casey.
The Superior Court is one of two state intermediate appellate courts, the other being the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. The subject matter jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court is limited to decisions of state agencies, and certain cases where the Commonwealth is a party; the Superior Court is the appellate court of general jurisdiction. It typically receives cases that are generally of right from final decisions of the Court of Common Pleas.
Although different panels of three judges may sit to hear appeals, there is only one Superior Court since Pennsylvania is not divided into appellate territories. The court is based in Harrisburg and sits to hear cases in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.