(WHTM) – This year Debra Todd made history by being sworn in as Pennsylvania’s first female Supreme Court Chief Justice in the court’s 300-year history. Today, she joins This Week in Pennsylvania with Dennis Owens.
Todd says being the first female Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court “means a lot to (her), of course, but more than that it means a lot to women in Pennsylvania.”
Todd says she has the same amount of power and authority as each of her colleagues on the bench in terms of cases. She will assign cases to individual justices for them to write, but acknowledges she “has one vote, the same as they do.”
A majority of her new responsibilities are administrative with 60 judicial districts, 67 counties, and over 1,000 judges across the state.
Todd says the public’s view of the court as a “partisan” body is her biggest concern regarding the institution, saying they’re not “Republican Justices or Democrat Justices, we’re Justices of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.”
“We always have difficult cases, they don’t get to us unless they are special, important, difficult cases, but we also get high profile cases and some of those are often controversial.”
Todd says even when the court is unanimous in a ruling, there are some who “characterized (the ruling) as a decision by a Democratic-majority court. And to me, that’s very sad because we’re not elected to serve a particular party or a particular constituency. We’re elected to serve the constitution.”
The daughter of a steelworker, she grew up in western Pennsylvania and became a lawyer for U.S. Steel. In 1999 she was elected to the superior court and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2007.
The court currently has six members with the passing of former Chief Justice Max Baer last year. May’s primary election will allow voters to choose their party’s nominee for the November general election to fill the court’s vacant seat.
Also on This Week in Pennsylvania, we recap several bills proposed at the State Capitol, including a marriage equality bill and a bill to limit the number of firearms someone can purchase.
Finally, analysts Chris Nichols and Danielle Gross join the show to discuss the latest in Pennsylvania politics, including a poll that found Democrat U.S. Senator Bob Casey leading hypothetical elections against Republicans Dave McCormick and Doug Mastriano in the 2024 Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race.
Casey announced his re-election campaign for a fourth term this week after undergoing surgery for prostate cancer.
Watch This Week in Pennsylvania every weekend across Pennsylvania.