Duquesne Law Student named winner of PMC Writing Competition

Friday, April 12, 2019

Zane Podsobinski, a 3L student of Duquesne University School of Law, will be honored by Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts (PMC) as the winner of the organization’s annual writing contest at a reception prior to the start of the Spring into Action Benefit. The reception will take place on Wednesday, April 17th, from 5:30 to 6:00 PM at the Rohr Auditorium at The Tower at PNC Plaza. Duquesne University President Ken Gormley is expected to attend. The contest challenged law school participants to “evaluate the debate between judicial accountability and judicial independence in the context of a current issue impacting the courts.”

Mr. Podsobinski’s paper was a historical presentation of the forces that favored the election of judges in the 19th century, as well as a discussion of the problems with such a system in the 21st century. 

The paper ends with a recommendation for merit selection of judges from a list of qualified candidates recommended by a non-partisan nominating committee. The author notes that in states with such systems the selection is usually made by the state’s chief executive but does not explicitly call for the decision to be made by the Governor. The paper also suggests that retention elections could be used to maintain a role for voters. 

“Judicial election systems no longer serve the purpose of providing judicial independence and promoting public faith in the judiciary that they were originally intended for,” said Zane Podsobinski. “Statistics show that neither of these principals still apply, especially in the state of Pennsylvania where judicial partisanship issues still are making headlines in the news. Judicial election states should seek to incorporate a merit-based system that restores the balance the Founding Fathers fought for,” Mr. Podsobinski continued.

 “We are delighted to highlight Mr. Podsobinski’s engaging work; his recognition is well deserved,” added PMC President & CEO Maida Milone.  “This context is nearly unique to Pennsylvania, in that we are among only a handful of states that still elects all of our judges and justices in partisan elections, rather than selecting them through a merit-based system.”

The contest was open to 2L and 3L students attending law schools in Pennsylvania, Rutgers School of Law Camden and Widener University Delaware Law School.

Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts is a statewide nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that all Pennsylvanians can come to our courts with confidence that they will be heard by qualified, fair and impartial judges.