Right-wing hack running for Pennsylvania Supreme Court forced to change ad after State Bar warning

Right-wing hack running for Pennsylvania Supreme Court forced to change ad after State Bar warning

Kevin Brobson is the Republican candidate on the ballot for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The race has garnered an unusually high degree of right-wing “dark money” involvement since Democrats currently enjoy a 5-2 majority on that court and the race is to replace retiring Justice Thomas Saylor. Currently a judge on the intermediate Commonwealth Court, Brobson in 2020 attempted to disenfranchise thousands of Pennsylvania voters by ruling that thousands of mail-in ballots should not be counted in a 2020 Pittsburgh-area Senate race between Republican Nicole Ziccarelli and the incumbent Democrat, Jim Brewster. The ballots were otherwise properly filled out and timely submitted. Brobson’s ruling, which had found fault with the ballots because they had not been hand-dated by the voters, was overturned by the state’s Supreme Court, and Brewster is, thankfully, still a PA state senator.

A judge whose past rulings have shown him to be willing and eager to disenfranchise Pennsylvanians for such apparently specious reasons evidently appealed to a Republican Party which has now fulsomely embraced Trump’s “Big Lie.” Accordingly, right-wing groups and individuals have poured money into this race which, although it would not directly alter the state Supreme Court’s balance, would be a useful stepping stone for the GOP in ultimately accomplishing that goal.

In Brobson’s bid to be elected to the state’s highest court—and presumably with his full support and approval—his campaign had been airing grossly misleading ads regarding his Democratic opponent, PA Superior Court Judge Maria McLaughlin. The ads, which ran

Judge McLaughlin, running against dirty GOP tactics 

throughout the state, accused Judge McLaughlin of voiding the drunk-driving guilty plea of a gentleman who purportedly “admitted to killing a pregnant woman and her unborn child.” This refers to a case in which both Judge McLaughlin and another judge had jointly concluded that the defendant in question was incorrectly advised by his lawyer about the elements of the crime to which he was pleading. What Brobson’s ad didn’t state is that the case then went back to the (lower) county court, where the defendant, presumably after receiving more accurate advice from his counsel, again pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle and is currently incarcerated. Contrary to the implication in Brobson’s misleading ad, he has not been released from prison. Of course, you would never know that from the ad.

While such a judge may be exactly what Republicans would prefer on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the PA State Bar Association took a rather dim view of Brobson’s campaign’s dirty tactics. As reported by NBC10 in Philadelphia, Brobson’s campaign had to modify the ad after a warning from the Bar Association:

The Republican candidate for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has revised an ad attacking his opponent after the state bar association notified him it ran afoul of its judicial campaign advertising standards. […]

The amended version of the ad provided to The Associated Press by the Brobson campaign deletes a claim that “one of her largest donors is indicted by the FBI for political bribery.” It also adds more context about her role in a 2020 appeals ruling to say she cast the deciding vote and sided with the author of the majority opinion rather than the dissenting judge, who would have let the guilty plea stand.

Brobson’s campaign declined to share the content of the Bar Association’s communication, citing purported “confidentiality agreements” (reporting from the Philadelphia Inquirer indicates Brobson’s campaign was told to either modify it or withdraw it outright). Of course, this misleading ad aired throughout the state for a week before Brobson was forced to change it, so the damage has already been done. Which was obviously his campaign’s intention all along.

Judicial campaigns in the Commonwealth of PA usually aren’t dredged through the mud the way Brobson’s campaign has approached this one. The problem, as the GOP well understands, is that most voters don’t have a clue when it comes to what they’re voting for in judicial elections. A serious demeanor, a somber black robe, and some baldfaced platitudes about “law and order” are usually about par for the course in such contests. But this is a different GOP today, one which will stoop to any low provided they enlist a judicial candidate willing to countenance these types of tactics in his campaign.

As reported by NBC10, Judge McLaughlin’s own campaign manager notes that Brobson’s “modified” ad is still blatantly misleading.

“He’s using a sound legal decision and misleading the public in an effort to cast Judge McLaughlin in such a way that the public would feel unsafe,” Dee said. “The spirit of that ad is still deceptive and misleading to the public.”

In other words, it’s just business as usual for the Republican Party.

Tuesday, November 2, is election day in the Commonwealth.

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