HARRISBURG - An allegedly dishonest campaign advertisement from 2011 forced the
Pennsylvania Bar Association's Judicial Evaluation Commission to slap a "not recommended" rating on Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey's candidacy for the state Supreme Court.
This week's release of the revised recommendation list comes just days after Covey sent a scathing letter to the PBA accusing the organization of overstepping its bounds by demanding she withdraw from this year's Supreme Court race in return for not disclosing its rating, an offer that the PBA has made to non-recommended candidates.
"The JEC's ultimatum that I withdraw my candidacy because the PBA's self-appointed evaluation committee objected to a truthful, and legally protected political advertisement, notwithstanding my qualifications, accomplishments and high recommendations, is unjustified, unconscionable and in violation of my Consititutional First Amendment Rights," Covey wrote in her letter to PBA President Francis O'Connor.
According to the latest ratings, the JEC settled on its "Not Recommended" rating for Covey based on a pledge she signed during her 2011 Commonwealth Court campaign that promised to not engage in false or misleading campaign advertising.
"The commission viewed one of her campaign advertisements, which aired in early November of 2011, and concluded she violated her pledge," the JEC's recommendation statement says. "Moreover, when questioned about the matter, in the Commission's opinion, she was not forthright in her responses."
Covey's critical eight-page letter calls into question the commission's evaluation and selection process, saying it did not adhere to its own procedures during her screening. Instead of considering her 30 years of qualifications and experience, Covey writes, the committee judged her legitimacy based on their interpretation of a four-year-old campaign ad.
"The JEC's attempt to color all of my qualifications for the Supreme Court by a single legal and accurate political advertisement is without any sense of balance, fairness or propriety," Covey writes.
The letter calls for the resignation of JEC chairman Robert Morris, saying his role as a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees created a conflict of interest.
Covey presided over a lawsuit filed by former state treasurer Rob McCord and State Senator Jake Corman against the NCAA and Penn State regarding the legality of the consent decree reached between the school and the athletic organization that included harsh sanctions for school officials' lack of intervention against the sexual abuse of minors by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky on campus grounds.
"The Penn State University trustee should have recused himself or the JEC should have asked him to recuse himself from any and all deliberations concerning me," Covey says in her letter. "As a result, the entire JEC process is tainted in regard to my evaluation."