Russell M. Nigro

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Russell M. Nigro was first elected to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on the Democratic ticket in 1995. He ran for retention in 2005 but failed to earn a majority of "YES" votes, thus making him the first Supreme Court Justice to lose a retention vote since such elections were first held in 1968.[1]

The ousting of Justice Nigro was the direct result of public anger over a pay raise for members of all 3 branches of state government, which the General Assembly passed without public notice or debate in the early morning hours of July 7, 2005 and then-governor Ed Rendell quickly signed. Since executive and legislative elections would not be held until the following year, the public voiced its displeasure by narrowly granting retention to Justice Sandra Shultz Newman and denying retention to Justice Nigro. Nigro received strong support from southeastern Pennsylvania and his native Philadelphia, but met strong opposition in southwestern and southcentral Pennsylvania where anger over the pay raise was greatest.

The public blamed the courts for failing to keep the legislature in line and allowing them to collect their raises immediately through a loophole known as unvouchered expenses, instead of waiting until the beginning of their next term as mandated by state law. Notably, however, no litigation regarding the pay raise legislation ever reached the Supreme Court and therefore, neither Justice Nigro nor Justice Newman ever had an opportunity to rule on the legislation's legality. Eight days after the election, the legislature and governor bowed to public pressure and repealed the pay raise (although many failed to return the extra money they had already collected).


Governor Rendell nominated Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Cynthia A. Baldwin to temporarily fill the vacancy through January 2008.

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