Frequently Asked Questions
What is a retention election?
The retention election is an opportunity for voters to decide whether they wish to keep sitting judges on the bench. Judges running for retention have already been elected into the judicial office by the public. Any judge who has been appointed to the bench needs to be elected by the public and then serve 10 years before being eligible for retention. A judge runs for retention every 10 years. A judge seeking retention does not run against anyone, but merely seeks to retain his/her office. In Retention voting, the voter is merely asked whether each individual judge should remain as a judge by voting yes or no. Every two years, including 2017, the public is asked to vote on the retention of judges. Typically, there are retention judges running for the Court of Common Pleas, PA Commonwealth Court, PA Superior Court, and the PA Supreme Court. A majority of yes votes results in the judges' retention for an additional term.
Why is it important for me to vote for retention judges?
First of all, you have the right to decide who sits on the benches of the Court of Common Pleas, PA Commonwealth Court, PA Superior Court, and PA Supreme Court. These judges will be serving a new 10-year term, and it is important that these judicial positions are filled by qualified, fair, and respected judges.
Can I vote yes to retain all judges?
Absolutely. It is your constitutional right to vote as you see fit. If you find that you are satisfied with all of the judges, it is permissible to vote yes for all of them. There is nothing irregular about that. In fact many people do so, especially when all of the judges have been found qualified by one or more of the various bar associations. If you believe all the judges should be retained, then you should vote yes for all of the judges.
How can I find out more information about these judges?
It is important that you are an informed voter. The Judicial Merit Selection Committee of the Allegheny County Bar Association has created this website to keep you informed. The Pennsylvania Bar Association has also created a similar website at PAVoteSmart. Prior to the election, the League of Women Voters publishes its voting guide in the Pittsburgh newspapers. The newspapers will also be a source of articles, editorials, and other information about the judges.
I am confused. I see judges listed under retention and then I hear about the judicial races. What's the difference?
It can be confusing. The retention judges are not running against anyone. They are running to retain judicial seats they currently hold. You simply have to vote either yes or no next to their names. On the other hand, there are candidates who are running against opponents to fill open positions on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, PA Commonwealth Court, PA Superior Court, and the PA Supreme Court. On the ballot, you will see candidates representing the Republican and Democratic parties.
How did the Allegheny County Bar Association come up with its Recommended ratings for the retention judges?
The bar association polled its membership and asked whether these judges should be retained for another 10 years. The judges who received a majority of YES votes by the members of the bar association receive a "recommended" rating. The votes are a measure of the judges' competence to serve.
Why does the Allegheny County Bar Association rate candidates and why publish the information?
When citizens enter the voting booth, they are faced with a long list of judicial candidates to choose. It is the Allegheny County Bar Association Judiciary Committee's job to provide the guidance and information needed to help voters make informed choices when they select candidates for Allegheny County's judiciary.
For how long is a rating valid?
A rating is valid for five years, but a person who has been rated can ask to be re-rated after two years.