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Politics & Government

Reform Activists Get Head Start on Campaign to Oust PA's Top Judge

Government reform activists say they’re getting a head start on their campaign against Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille.

The group Rock the Capital is listing 10 problems with Castille’s tenure, blasting the judge for what they  describe as unethical behavior and incompetence in running the state’s court system.

Report author and longtime activist Tim Potts said he wants to hold debate-like forums with the Chief Justice on judicial administration and ethics, and why he thinks Castille should not get to stay on the bench.

"I prefer to call it a discussion, because I don’t want it to be adversarial as I want it to be educational," Potts said. "Now, it’s bound to be adversarial when we talk about whether he should be retained."

The grievances include the court decision, written by Castille, that allowed judges to keep a pay raise that had been repealed by state lawmakers.

The activists also fault Castille for not investigating scandals-in-the-making sooner.

Castille dismissed the report as a litany of newspaper articles with none of the follow-up articles mentioned.

"They’re just looking at the headlines saying that I’m responsible for every negative thing that happened in the court over the last six years that I’ve been Chief Justice, which is an impossibility," he said. "There’s 15,000 court employees."

The Chief Justice has been on the Supreme Court since 2004 and is up for a 10-year retention term in November.

Eric Epstein, with the Rock the Capital government reform group, said Castille shouldn’t be running for a 10-year retention term when he’s fast approaching the state’s mandatory retirement age limit for judges.

"I think the game changer here is the fact that he’s 69 and running for an office that he can only serve 10 percent of his term for," Epstein said. "You know, when you talk to people and you get past the other issues, they’re having a hard time grasping why somebody wants to run for an office in which they can only serve one-tenth of it."