A famous Sherlock Holmes story had the fictional detective find a clue in something that did not happen to solve the mystery: a dog that did not bark. Pennsylvania voters who must decide whether to retain judges are offered a similar clue in the Nov. 5 election.
Judicial elections are always a mystery. Voters often make their decision on the basis of misleading advertising, name recognition, ethnic and party affiliation or simple intuition. But at least when judges are first elected they have a campaign that offers some information.
By the time they have been on the bench for 10 years, the little that is known has faded from public memory. And this time the voters are asked whether the judges have the merit to continue, yes or no? How to assess that?
The best guide is the barking. While there's always some, not much barking is evident in this election cycle.
The Pennsylvania Bar Association has recommended keeping the four judges seeking retention on state appellate courts. The Allegheny County Bar Association has recommended a yes vote on the six Common Pleas Court judges seeking retention. The Post-Gazette concurs and endorses new terms for the following:
* On the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Justice Max Baer, 65, a former Allegheny County judge who has been on the state's high court since 2004, and Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, 69,a former Philadelphia district attorney who was elected to the top court in 1993, retained by the voters in 2003 and sworn in as chief justice in 2008.
* On Superior Court, Judge Susan Peikes Gantman, 61,who has served there since 2004, and Judge Jack A. Panella, 58,also since 2004.
* On Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, Judge Ronald W. Folino, 59, a 20-year veteran on the bench; Kathleen R. Mulligan, 59, another 20-year veteran; Lawrence J. O'Toole, 63, who first served after being nominated by Gov. Robert Casey before being elected later in 1993; Jill Rangos, 53, nominated by Gov. Ed Rendell in 1993 before being elected; Christine A. Ward, 56,also a Rendell nominee elected that year, and John A. Zottola, 56,elected in 1993.
The evidence on these judges is they are doing the job and should be retained.