The Pennsylvania judge who authored the majority 2020 opinion that created ballot drop boxes and satellite election offices died suddenly Saturday. The same ruling also extended the deadline for accepting mailed ballots, reportedly to compensate for issues with the U.S. Postal Service.
Penn. Supreme Court Chief Justice Max Baer, 74, died at his home near Pittsburgh from an undisclosed cause, according to an announcement from the court.
Baer, first elected to the court in 2003, was scheduled to retire in late December when he turned 75, the court’s mandatory retirement age.
State Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd, as the jurist on the court with the most seniority, will assume the top job a few months earlier than planned. Baer had been preparing Todd to take his place upon his intended retirement date.
“This is a tremendous loss for the Court and all of Pennsylvania,” Todd remarked on behalf of the court, in a statement. “Chief Justice Baer was an influential and intellectual jurist whose unwavering focus was on administering fair and balanced justice. He was a tireless champion for children, devoted to protecting and providing for our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.”
The Keystone State’s governor ordered flags flown at half-mast in commeroration of the jurist’s long, devoted service.
“I’m extremely saddened to learn that Chief Justice Baer passed away,” Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA) said in a statement. “He was a respected and esteemed jurist with decades of service to our courts and our commonwealth. I am grateful for his contributions and leadership in the Supreme Court.”
Chief Justice Emeritus Thomas Saylor said Baer was a “consummate gentleman” and “dear friend” of his, according to the Post-Gazette report. The two reportedly spoke Friday and Justice Saylor said the soon-to-retire Baer anticipated spending more time with his grandchildren.
“He was very conscious when he took over as chief justice of continuing to foster a spirit of collegiality among the justices,” he told the Post-Gazette. “And to make sure that — notwithstanding any type of division on a particular case — at the end of the day, it was to remain a very collegial and respectful court. I think that will also be part of his legacy.”
He added that Baer worked to maintain close ties to Pittsburgh, holding season tickets for his alma mater — the University of Pittsburgh — and the Steelers.
“Three weeks ago, I was in Pittsburgh and went with him to the West Virginia game.” Saylor reportedly said. “It was a grand evening. I am very blessed that I had that time with him recently.”