Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Sentinel Online - Editorial - Casey scores in pay grab lawsuit

The Sentinel Online - Editorial: "Casey scores in pay grab lawsuit

By The Sentinel, March 08, 2006

Nobody likes being sued. Anytime a person is called upon to respond to a lawsuit, he can be expected to file the most thorough argument he can muster in hopes the suit will be dismissed.

State Treasurer Bob Casey was named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed by anti-pay grab activist Gene Stilp, who is trying to head off arguments of several state judges that the now-repealed pay grab bill must be reinstated. They argue the state’s constitution specifically prohibits the reduction of any judge’s pay while in office, and that means the pay raise can’t be repealed.

Casey’s response to the lawsuit was released this week — and it looked an awful lot like Stilp’s lawsuit. Casey’s brief asserted the Legislature “repeatedly violated Article III of the state Constitution” in passing the pay-grab bill, and since the bill was unconstitutional on its face, the judges’ salary raise never really existed.

And that neatly cuts the legs out from under the various judge-filed lawsuits to reinstate the pay grab — if the state Supreme Court concurs with that reasoning.

Now we happened to notice that there’s a U.S. Senate election in Pennsylvania this year — and that Casey is the leading Democratic challenger in that race. So we’re alert to the notion that Casey responded when opportunity knocked.

Certainly this has occurred to Republicans, who claim Casey had plenty of time before this to register any objections he might have had to the pay grab.

That Casey has suddenly gotten religion as his Senate campaign ramps up is a point worthy of debate. He might have gotten away with simply ignoring the issue on the grounds that a court case was already proceeding.

But the need to file a response to Stilp’s lawsuit forced him to take a stand. He could have, like Gov. Ed Rendell did previously, simply assert that the constitutional violations took place outside his field of influence.

Instead, Casey took a course that puts him in opposition to the much-derided Legislature and in line with majority thought on the pay grab. And it puts him way out front of the guy he’s challenging, Sen. Rick Santorum, who previously asserted that statewide issues don’t affect his candidacy.

We’ll see if Santorum is eventually proved right. For now, Casey takes the point."

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