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Judges cannot be political pawns

When I was a teenager, my father belonged to Philadelphia’s Union League.

Back then, in the late 1970s, women were excluded from the membership rolls. I also remember that the female guests who dined with their male friends were politely asked to use the entrance on Sansom Street. It was a delicate way of showing that they were welcome to visit, but not to stay.

Unfortunately, I’ve been to see signs recently that it’s women handing out membership cards to the Old Boys Club. Or at least helping the Old Boys score points.

That’s very clear after watching what Democrats have been trying to do to Judge Carolyn Tornetta Carluccio, Republican candidate for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

While I’m not certain that her opponent, Dan McCaffery, is funding these attempts at character assassination, I have no doubt he welcomes the help. If he didn’t, he’d come out and say how dishonest they actually were.

There is a slew of new campaign ads tarring Carluccio as some nightmare out of the “Handmaids Tale,” willing to subject women across the commonwealth to forced pregnancies. It is the same sort of sensational half-truths that were used against Dr. Mehmet Oz in the last senatorial election, and which will be used against Dave McCormick in the next one.

But the attacks on her honor are particularly repellent, because they play on the old, tired trope that women only care about abortion rights, and the women who are even moderate on the life issues are a threat to women everywhere.

The Old Boys figured out how effective that could be when they listened to some Old Girls, and a perfect union was formed.

When I watch these ads, I think that the guys who want to keep a strong, accomplished female jurist from getting a seat on the highest court in the state are afraid of her. They can’t meet her head on, and so they use the subterfuge of caring about women’s rights, all the while trashing an actual woman who has displayed a great talent for protecting them.

For example, as a former federal prosecutor, Carluccio has been instrumental in getting weapons off the streets and drug dealers incarcerated. On the other hand, she has significant experience as a public defender, and understands the importance of protecting due process rights of the accused, some of whom also happen to be women.

Seems to me the judge understands that both sides of the legal scale have to be respected.

The attacks against the judge in those ridiculous ads are rooted in some progressive fantasy that all we care about as females is the ability to have virtually unlimited access to abortion.

When I spoke with Carluccio in preparation for this column, she lamented how ironic it was that in order to be elected you needed to be on a “team” but then when you were on the bench, your obligation was to rule without putting your finger on the scales based upon party registration.

It’s a difficult tightrope to navigate, and this woman has done it with amazing grace for the past 14 years.

Carluccio was first elected to the bench in 2009 and was recently voted president judge of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. She is the first woman to have been elevated to that position, and she won the support of Democrats and Republicans.

That’s because she hasn’t allowed politics to supplant jurisprudence. The Democrats who voted for her must have agreed.

And that brings me to the unfortunate situation in Delaware County, where the Democratic Committee has engaged in a repellent power move and refused to recommend three well-qualified Republican judges for retention.

Their attempts to prove that this has nothing at all to do with politics is laughable, and qualifies many of those Democrats to moonlight as comedy writers for “Saturday Night Live.”

It is unfortunate that judges need to run for office. In a better world, merit would be self-evident, without the gamesmanship.

In that world, Carluccio would be welcomed by everyone who shares the values instilled in her by her parents, an Irish mother and an Italian father who she credits with teaching her that three things matter above all: family, faith and doing the right thing, even when it’s the hardest of the alternatives.

But we live in the world of those half-truths, and the Old Boys and their complicit Old Girls have to push the party line to retain their oligarchical authority.

It’s bad enough when the focus is on legislatures and executives. It is dangerous when it involves the judiciary.

Christine Flowers is a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times. Contact her at:

[email protected]

 
 
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