One set of rules must apply to all

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Editorial

The rules are what makes the game. The National Football League wouldn’t be much fun to watch if the Philadelphia Eagles got just three downs to make a first down, while the Dallas Cowboys got four?

Not only would it not be fun, it wouldn’t be fair, would it?

And yet, in Chester County, it appears that the county’s Court of Common Pleas seems intent on making the two political parties in the county play by different rules, despite the fact that the future of county government is just a tad more important than a game.

Last week’s appointment of Ryan Costello as a County Commissioner falls sharply into the category of the right choice for all of the wrong reasons. We have no doubt that Mr. Costello will be a competent or even an excellent county commissioner; he’s a bright, articulate man with experience in both county and local government.

Our issue is that that it appears that the judges — all 13 of them — managed to apply a different set of criteria to filling the open position on the county board of commissioners than was used in 2006. The general circumstances are roughly the same, picking a new commissioner within 18 months of an election would give any “new” incumbent a sizable leg-up in the upcoming election.

In 2006, the judges made it clear that they wanted to appoint a caretaker to the Board of Commissioners, when Andrew Dinniman was elected to the state Senate. Over the objections of the Chester County Democratic Committee, they selected former commissioner Pat O’Donnell to complete Dinniman’s term.

Now, however, five short years later, when Carol Aichele resigned to become Secretary of the Commonwealth in the new administration of Gov. Tom Corbett, the rules changed suddenly and Costello, a declared candidate for Commissioner in this year’s election got the nod from the judges. Aside from being patently unfair to Jim Jordan, the Thornbury businessman challenging Costello for the GOP nomination, it would seem to give Costello an unfair advantage over any non-incumbent Democratic candidate for the office.

Had the judges taken the same tact in 2006, we would have no complaint. But it seems evident that the judges appear to have one set of rules for Republicans and entirely another for Democrats.

That sort of judicial activism leads not just to damage of our political system, but undermines the confidence in our court system. If there are different rules for different political parties, why would there not be different rules for individuals, based on economic status or skin color? If we can’t trust our judges to fair, impartial and consistent, then we have no justice system.

As voters, we have only one recourse: make a point of our displeasure and disappointment with those seeking election this year to the Court of Common Pleas. If our current batch of judges do not value fair play, let us make sure that we elect new judges with a more definitive — and evident — moral compass.

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