In Pennsylvania, we elect our judges. This can be a good thing, or it can be a bad thing. One of the biggest issues is the fact that even the most informed voters often know nothing about the judges on the ballot before them. Add to that the fact that these judges are elected in off-year elections with very low turnout, and it’s both an opportunity and an uphill battle if you want to see meaningful change in the justice system.
Consider the case in Erie right now. Erie 4th Ward District Judge Tom Robie isn’t on the ballot again until 2015. He last won in an unchallenged race in 2009 with the support of both parties from the looks of one of the election results pages I found. Unfortunately for the citizens of Erie, that may not be such a good thing if Judge Robie’s reported actions in a recent gun possession case are any indication.
Pennsylvania has a pretty clear preemption law that doesn’t allow local governments to regulate possession of firearms by law-abiding citizens. The City of Erie violated the ban and passed their own ban on possession in city-owned parks. Several men were cited in violation of this illegal ordinance. And, according to social media posts by those involved in the case, the judge decided to find them guilty of violating the illegal ordinance anyway, despite the case law on the subject. I haven’t found a news story about the decision yet, but here is one with better background on the case.
For purposes of legal action, these guys can clearly appeal and hope that, at some level, they get a judge who cares about actually making sure that the laws are followed by both the government agents and citizens. However, even if that happens, the judge who ignored the case law on the issue gets to enjoy the perks of his taxpayer-funded job with few people caring that his cases may end up overturned because he appears to have opted to ignore the state’s preemption law and related established case law.
For election purposes, this is a great opportunity for local gun owners to get involved with local parties and start finding a replacement for Judge Robie on the next ballot. They can find him a primary challenger from either side. So, will local gun owners pick up this cause? It’s a long way to 2015, but since they need to find a candidate willing to take on this judge, the process needs to start early. But, if local gun owners would be willing to take up this cause, then it can send a clear message to many more local politicians – judicial or otherwise.