A three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania – two Democrats and one Republican – heard oral arguments yesterday in a case challenging the writs of election issued by Pa. State Rep. Joanna McClinton (D).
Though there are three vacant seats in the Pa. House that require special elections to fill, the judges are only hearing arguments concerning the seats vacated by Representatives Austin Davis and Summer Lee (both D). The special election for the vacancy created by the death of Rep. Tony DeLuca (D) is not being challenged. All three elections are currently scheduled for Feb. 7.
Rep. Bryan Cutler (R) originally filed the complaint, asking the special elections to be delayed and alleging that Democrats did not have a majority when McClinton claimed authority to issue the writs of election. Cutler had issued his own writs of election, setting the date for the two vacated seats in question for May.
On Jan. 3., Cutler joined 15 other Republicans in voting for Mark Rozzi, a Democrat, to become Speaker of the House. After taking the gavel as speaker, Rozzi endorsed McClinton’s timeline for the special elections.
In a Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Application for Special Relief dated Jan. 4, Daniel Brier, an attorney representing McClinton, said that Cutler’s claim that he was the majority leader and authorized to issue writs of election is “a political question not subject to review in the courts and, as a result, there is no actionable dispute.”
Brier also referenced Cutler’s vote for Rozzi: “Further, Leader Cutler, in the ultimate example of the efficacy of the political question doctrine, voted for Speaker Rozzi who later issued writs affirming February 7, 2023 as the will of the House of Representative for the date on which the special elections must occur.”
The judges’ decision is expected to occur soon.