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Which Pa. judges will serve 10 more years?

Plus, meet the new rural affairs reporter for Spotlight PA's State College bureau.

Support Spotlight PA's vital journalism and for a limited time, all gifts will be DOUBLED!With another important election coming up and a high-stakes year in 2024, now is the time to ensure Spotlight PA can continue to deliver deep, nonpartisan reporting focused on educating and empowering you, the voter.

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This is The Investigator, a free weekly newsletter with the top news from across Pennsylvania.
A weekly newsletter by Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.

September 14, 2023 |
Judicial retention, outdoor recreation, new reporter, money trail, cautionary tale, councilor charged, skill games, secret group, and bot bill.


In Pennsylvania, all state judges — from those who preside over municipal courts to the justices of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court — initially run in partisan races.

Once elected, the judges on Pennsylvania’s powerful appellate and Common Pleas courts serve 10-year terms.

These judges then have to run in little-noticed retention elections to seek another term. Voters make a yes-or-no choice, in which a majority yes vote allows the judge to serve another decade.

Spotlight PA's Stephen Caruso explains what you need to know about these elections and the judges who are up for retention this year.

Also this week, Pennsylvania has launched a new office to give outdoor recreation businesses a direct line to the state government.

Spotlight PA's Marley Parish reports that the office will use its $422,000 budget to hire two staff members and fund travel to meet with outdoor recreation advocates, business owners, and government officials statewide.

Keep reading to learn more about Parish, who recently started with the State College Bureau. 

"There are people chomping at the bit to vote one or all three of those 2015 Democratic babies off the bench."

—GOP political consultant Christopher Nicholas on the 2024 state Supreme Court retention elections that will determine whether incumbent judges get new terms

Support Spotlight PA's vital investigative journalism and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED!
We urgently need your help to make sure Spotlight PA's vital investigative and public-service reporting can continue.

The first 500 gifts of any amount made during our Fall Member Drive will be DOUBLED by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. This is a huge opportunity to leverage your gift and unlock HUGE matching support for Spotlight PA.

A big thanks to the 72 people who have given so far, including Tim C., who said, "You offer well-researched unbiased news on important issues."

Join Tim & contribute now »
» CRIMINAL SOLUTION: Join Spotlight PA, the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and experts TONIGHT from 6-7:30 p.m. ET at Point Park University for a live discussion on how a Pennsylvania law traps those with mental health issues in jail. Register to view a livestream here.

» STORY FEST: Spotlight PA is participating in Philly Story Fest, a first-of-its-kind festival that brings together storytellers from across the city on one stage. Join us Thursday, Oct. 5 from 7-10 p.m. at the Bok building in South Philadelphia (1901 South 9th St.). Tickets are $25 and available here.

» PATH TO EQUITY: Join Spotlight PA for its first in-person summit on Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg. Spotlight PA is co-presenting this event with Color & Culture, a Pennsylvania marketing firm. Tickets are now on sale at this link until sold out.
» Four takeaways from our event on reporting misconduct at Penn State

Meet Spotlight PA State College's rural affairs reporter

I’m Marley Parish, the new rural affairs reporter for Spotlight PA’s State College regional bureau. I’m excited to call Centre County home again after spending two years in Harrisburg.

I grew up in rural western Pennsylvania and fell in love with journalism at Allegheny College. The student-run paper there taught me every step of the process: pitching story ideas, reporting, editing, designing, and delivering copies to newsracks.

After graduating, my career kicked off at the Centre Daily Times. As a community reporter, I wrote about local government and K-12 schools, covering everything from a local girl’s efforts to reverse a township’s ordinance that barred chicken-keeping to the Bellefonte Area School District reevaluating its nickname and logo. I also monitored elected officials’ decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic, writing stories about how and why the Centre County Board of Commissioners could meet privately to discuss reopening the county without public input.

Most recently, I worked for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, where I wrote about state government, politics, education, health, and elections. I received statewide recognition for my coverage of the 2020 post-election review conducted by state Senate Republicans and my reporting on an unauthorized review in Fulton County. I also examined what more restrictive reproductive health policies could mean for Pennsylvanians after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

I love that journalism takes me to different communities. If I weren't a reporter, my knowledge of Pennsylvania would probably be limited to where I've lived. But through attending public hearings, filing open records requests to a range of state agencies, and talking to people across the commonwealth, I've developed a nifty map of Pennsylvania and its people. And that intimacy informs all my work. No matter the assignment, I always want to report the truth, elevate underrepresented voices, and maintain a solutions-based approach.

It’s essential to be present in the communities I’m covering, so I hope you’ll reach out to talk about what kinds of stories you want to see. I’m eager to dive deep into stories about agriculture, the environment, community development, and monitor how government spending and state-level policies impact north-central Pennsylvania.

Outside of journalism, my favorite role is being an aunt. When I’m not working on a story, you can find me shopping small at a boutique or drinking at a local coffee shop.

Let’s chat. You can reach me at

🏆 SMART STUFF: Did you stay on top of Pennsylvania news this week? Prove it with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz: NFL lawsuit, court contests, Cavalcante captured, and surprise birds.
This week's top news story in PennsylvaniaMONEY TRAIL: Two GOP candidates for Somerset County commissioner may be investigated for campaign finance violations, the Tribune-Democrat reports. In a rare move, two election board members called on the district attorney to probe candidate Brian Fochtman (the current county prothonotary) and Irv Kimmel’s fundraising reports, saying it appeared the pair spent significantly more than they collected.

This week's second top news story in PennsylvaniaCAUTIONARY TALE: A private equity deal for a Pennsylvania hospital did not work out as planned. Seven years after controversial California-based firm bought Delaware County Memorial Hospital, promising to right the cash-strapped ship, Bloomberg reports the hospital is closed, the firm is indebted, a lawsuit is looming, and private equity appears an increasingly unreliable last resort.

This week's third top news story in PennsylvaniaCOUNCILOR CHARGED: Luzerne County Councilor Stephen J. Urban is charged with misdemeanor counts of simple assault after allegedly chasing a 12-year-old in Kingston with a baseball bat, the Times Leader reports. Urban is also charged with soliciting someone to alter, destroy, or conceal a record related to the pending investigation.

SKILL GAMES: State Sen. Gene Yaw (R., Lycoming) is among the loudest voices in Harrisburg in favor of formally legalizing and regulating so-called skill games — slot machine-like devices that occupy a grey area under state law. But Capital-Star reports his ties to the industry are raising questions and conflict of interest concerns.
SECRET GROUP: A group of 15 environmental organizations sent a letter to Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro objecting to the private deliberations of his committee on climate change and calling for the group to be disbanded. The group includes representatives from the energy industry, Capital & Main reports, and advocates are concerned about a fox-in-the-henhouse dynamic as the panel debates the future of Pennsylvania’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.


» ABC27: Proposed bill would prohibit bots from buying concert tickets

» AP: State lawmaker joins race for Pennsylvania attorney general

» NEWSWEEK: State Police defend group photo with captured Cavalcante

» PENNLIVE: Efficacy of sex offender residency rules questioned

» WHYY: Philadelphia police officer charged with killing Eddie Irizarry

Send your answers to

NAME-GAME (Case No. 217)Remove my first letter and I am enthusiastic. Remove my first two letters and watch me (Hint: it's shorthand for a moving image). Remove my first three letters and I'm all insinct. Remove my first four letters to reveal my first. What's my name? (Hint: This is a person's name.)
Feeling smart? Challenge a friend.

Last week's answer: A splinter or thorn. (Find last week's clue here.) 

Congrats to Tish M., who will receive Spotlight PA swag. Others who answered correctly: Michael H., Annette I., Joe S., Peter S., Fred O., and Mary B.
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