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Newly Elected Judge David Wecht On His Plans For The State Supreme Court

After the most expensive judicial election in US history, with nearly $16 million spent, the dust has finally settled on the Pennsylvanian Supreme Court election and the democrats have swept the bench. David Wecht, Christine Donohue and Kevin Dougherty, all Democrats, have won their elections and will be inducted as Supreme Court Justices. Wecht paid a visit to Essential Pittsburgh and spoke with Paul Guggenheimer about his victory.

Despite the amount of money used in political campaigns, Wecht himself is no fan of big spending in elections. He described negative advertising as “deplorable” and said that it is sad we live in a world where money is used as speech.

“Unless and until the United States Supreme Court reverses itself on Citizens United or the United States Constitution is amended to provide otherwise, we will all live in a world where, unfortunately, money is speech,” Wecht said.

The newly elected justice equates complaining about negative ads and big spending in elections to complaining about the weather. It is going to happen no matter what.

Focusing on where he would like to make a difference, Wecht said he wishes to tackle the issues of incarceration in Pennsylvania. He described the high amounts of inmates as a major drain on PA’s finances and a big cost to citizens.

“It is, and people need to focus on this, tremendously expensive to incarcerate and I fear our elected leaders don’t confront that reality,” Wecht said.

According to the newly elected justice, it costs around $35,000 to $45,000 to incarcerate an inmate each year. Wecht believes courts should try to place non-violent criminals into rehabilitation programs rather than in jail. He especially believes rehab would prove effective to criminals suffering from addiction issues.

“Courts need to apply a nuanced approach, rather than a bludgeon in dealing with that,” Wecht said.

A major reason so many interests were interested in this election is the issue of electoral districts. The time for Pennsylvania to redraw its districts is coming up and the PA Supreme Court nominates a tie-breaker to the redrawing process to manage disputes between the two Democratic and two Republican nominees.

While some may fear a Democrat controlled Supreme Court will mean redrawing districts in their favor, Wecht states doing such a thing goes against the US constitution.

“Extreme gerrymandering is an abomination and antithetical to the concept of one person, one vote,” Wecht said.

Despite these pending issues, Wecht has a great deal of excitement for his new role, saying the election is “a new day for the high court.”

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

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