Russell, Russell, Russell

It's hard not to feel at least a little sympathy for former state Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro, who was the first sitting justice to be booted from the court in a retention election.

Given that the public was up in arms over the payraise fiasco and Nigro was one of the few state-wide candidates they could unleash their fury on, it's understandable if he feels he got a bit of a raw deal. But his comments at the Philadelphia Bar Association this past week might leave some wondering if he's got the right message to win another election if he decides to run again for the high court in 2007.

As reported in Tuesday's Legal by reporter Asher Hawkins, Nigro took his shots at the media and some political activists. He also said the media coverage of the justicesexpenses — such as restaurant bills or Justice J. Michael Eakin charging taxpayers $5 in toll fees for traveling in October 2005 to the funeral of Justice Sandra Schultz Newman's husband — had gotten absurd.

For instance, Nigro took issue with a newspaper editorial board questioning how the justices should or should not rule on a case.

"Who is an editorial board to tell me about how I should interpret the Constitution?" Nigro was quoted as saying.

Quick question: If you think you lost mainly because of the media and activists, is it really going to buy you political capital to antagonize them again? And since when can't newspapers — or any citizen for that matter — question the actions or potential decisions of elected officials?

While I'm sure he didn't intend to come across as being high and mighty, it would be easy for the public — or a potential political challenger — to view his comments as suggesting he doesn't answer to anyone.

Beyond that, let me suggest that Nigro's missing the point about the expenses. He might be right. The media might be making a mountain out of a molehill in certain instances.

But the perception is out there among the public that politicians are feasting at the trough at their expense. He has to deal with it. It's not going to go away. To dismiss the coverage of those expenses will no doubt strike some as evidence that Nigro just doesn't get it.

And some might argue that if he thinks the coverage of Eakin's $5 charge for the tolls to the funeral is "crap," that's exactly what some members of the public think of hitting up the taxpayers for $5 to go to the funeral for a colleague's spouse.

But, in all fairness, you have to credit Nigro for his bluntness. While so many politicians are scared to speak what's on their minds, Nigro has never shied away from telling you what he's thinking. That quality, along with the circumstances surrounding his defeat, will make his a compelling story to watch should he decide to run for the court again.

Hank Grezlak, Editor-in-Chief

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One Comment on “Russell, Russell, Russell”

  1. Doug Sepic Says:

    Nigro was wrong, but so is/was the smugness of the media in its repeated attempts at ruining any given public public official at any given time. Who gives a rats ass if Eakin charged the State $5 in tolls when the federal government blows billions in give aways, foreign aid and waste. This country is on the brink of disaster, and the newspaper is worried about $5. Seriously.


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