While this particular site uses Pennsylvania as a model or microcosm it applies to every state and national court system. One word can sum up the cause of the problem – greed. We are a capitalist nation that has lost its compassion at this point in our history. And without sounding too cliche’, the root of the cause are lawyers. Their commercial industry has overtaken the most powerful branch of the government, the Judicial Branch – of the most powerful country on Earth. When the Judicial Branch is referred to, it encompasses both the state-level and federal-level branches of government. However, the mechanisms described here, will be illustrated through the evolution of the constitution of the state of Pennsylvania.
Where We Went Wrong
Specifically, in 1968, the bar associations managed to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution (and similarly via the ABA in the majority of other states) with Article V Section 10(c). The article was formulated and proposed at the 1967-1968 Constitution Convention held in Philadelphia. A referendum was put on the ballot and an ill-informed public voted on it on April 23, 1968, without really having been presented the actual repercussions that would eventually become evident. There have been only seven constitution conventions ever held in Pennsylvania, since 1776. The 1968 convention was the last one.
“Rose is A Rose By Any Other Name” – Shakespeare
What does this title mean with regards to our government? The Shakespearean reference is to what are essentially laws being referred to as “court rules,” made by the bar associations, to circumvent the General Assembly i.e. legislators from interfering in the new enterprise of the “independent” Judicial Branch. Although they are called “court rules” they in effect operate as “laws” and have been unconstitutionally inflicted on the public. Instead, it gives power to a bunch of lawyers whose only objective is increasing their personal profit margins. Please read on, as this will soon make sense to most readers.
Prior to 1968, the Pennsylvania Constitution contained no explicit grant of rule- making authority to the state Supreme Court.
While judicial rule-making power may well have been inherent in the constitutional scheme, the explicit grant of rule-making authority to the judiciary came from the General Assembly. (See 17 P.S. § 61.5) Under this new statutory grant the rule-making power of the Pennsylvania courts delegated the entire procedural rule-making authority with respect to civil actions to the Supreme Court.
These “rules” now designed by the “rules committees” of the bar associations, are specifically formulated to obstruct access to the “substantive” laws put into authority by your elected officials. Instead, there are a multitude of lawyers constructing court rules, to maximize the profit of the bar association members, and not constructed to bring justice to litigants. This did not go unnoticed by our legislators.
In 1978, the PA Legislative Branch challenged the Judicial Branch, when the courts denied access to the public and the legislators in violation of the Open Meeting Law, to their rule making committees. The result was a Catch 22 had already been put in place by the bar associations, as the courts decided they had the authority to rule on whether or not they were in violation of the law. A further explanation of this debacle is here: Open Meeting Law vs. Sunshine Act when the courts repealed the Open Meeting Law and replaced it with the Sunshine Act, exempting the entire court system from public oversight.
It will be very difficult to undo this damage, but if it is not undone, the prediction of Thomas Jefferson quoted in the graphic above, will be realized and we will spiral further into a non-democratic society, if it is already not too late. (If you would like to read an extremely technical and lengthy research article, upon which much of this site is based, and which was written in 1998 by a man who is now a U.S. Attorney under the federal government, it can be found here. ) The goal here is to simplify this issue for the non-lawyer reader.