Over the last 19 years, I’ve seen the Pennsylvania Supreme Court suffer numerous black eyes, shoot itself in the foot, and often appear clueless when it comes to public perceptions of the court. Facing a politically-charged case like Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, many feared the court would wind up in a bad position. In my view, not only should the court’s handling of the case put those fears to rest, but it was an almost textbook example of how the court can handle controversial issues with fairness and a careful eye toward public confidence in the court system.
There was something to like for nearly everyone in the court’s September 18 per curiam order and its two dissents. Undoubtedly the true believers at both ends of the political spectrum were disappointed when the court sent the case back to Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson for further review. But the fact is, the court was handed the legal equivalent of a lit stick of dynamite amidst the vitriol of a hotly-contested presidential election. And despite being a court split evenly along party lines, the justices managed to craft a decision that was careful, practical and fair to all the parties involved.