TIME FOR CHANGE
As most of you know, I write a voter information letter before every election. This time is no different. And here it is.
I’m a Democratic Committeeperson in the 8th ward, 13th division, but I write this letter myself and it reflects my opinions alone.
If you want to be removed from my voter letter list, let me know. If you this was forwarded to you, and you want to be on my list, let me know. If you want to tell me what you think, please write me.
We have an important Municipal Primary Election in Philadelphia on Tuesday, May 18. We will be voting for Philadelphia District Attorney, Philadelphia Controller and Judicial candidates for the PA Supreme Court, PA Superior Court, PA Commonwealth Court, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, and Philadelphia Municipal Court. We also have FIVE ballot questions. Pennsylvania is a closed Primary State, which means that you can only vote for candidates in the Party in which you are registered. Independent or nonpartisan voters cannot vote for candidates in the Primary, but all voters can vote on Ballot Questions.
You can vote either in person or by mail.
If you choose to vote by mail, the deadline to apply for a mail in ballot is May 11, but we strongly urge you to apply immediately if you wish to vote by mail. You will not receive a mail-in ballot automatically even if you voted by mail in 2020. You must apply each calendar year. Ballots must be received by the County Board of Elections by Election Day May 18, 2021. Postmarks do not count. The only drop-off box in Philadelphia will be at City Hall.
Below is my list of recommended candidates. More information on next pages.
Justice of the Supreme Court: Vote for 1:
Judge of the Superior Court: Vote for 1:
Judge of the Commonwealth Court: Vote for 2:
David Lee Spurgeon and Lori A. Dumas
Judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas
(Vote for 8) We are recommending 9 so choose 8 from among them, listed in ballot order with Ballot numbers: Please read bios to help you decide.
11. Wendi Barish
12. Craig Levin
13. Cateria McCabe
14. Nick Kamau
15. Daniel R. Sulman
18. Betsy Wahl
19. Michele Hangley
22. Chris Hall
23. Mark J. Moore
Judge of the Municipal Court (You can vote for 3, but we only recommend 2)
District Attorney: (Vote for 1)
City Controller: (Vote for 1)
Ballot Questions 1 and 2:
Ballot Question 3, 4 and 5:
Since we are voting in this Primary for many judicial candidates, I thought a brief review of Pennsylvania’s judicial system might be helpful in case you have forgotten what you learned in civics class. The United States has a dual judicial system, made up of a federal court system and the state courts in each of the states. Federal judgeships are all by appointment, whereas judges in Pennsylvania are elected.
At both the state and federal level, there are generally three tiers or levels or courts: courts of general jurisdiction (trial courts), intermediate appellate courts, and high appellate courts. Trial courts hear a case, review evidence and testimony and render a judgement or verdict. Appellate or appeals courts review cases brought up on appeal. An appeal is when one of the parties to the case (known as the plaintiff and defendant in civil cases, the prosecution and defendant in criminal cases) appeals to a higher court for a reversal of the decision of a lower court.
In Pennsylvania, the 3 Appellate or appeals courts are:
The Supreme Court, the court of last resort in Pennsylvania, consists of seven Justices. We have one opening on the PA Supreme Court in 2021, and one excellent Democratic candidate, who we strongly recommend and endorse.
#1. Maria McLaughlin. Rated Highly Recommended by the PA Bar. Among her other outstanding characteristics, she is our neighbor in the 8th Ward. She was elected to the Superior Court in 2017 after serving in the Court of Common Pleas from 2011. The PA Bar evaluations states, “During her time on the Superior Court, she coordinated and developed policies enabling the court to hold arguments during the pandemic. This task required her to liaise with numerous members of the bench and bar from each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Prior to her election to the bench, the candidate worked for 19 years in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office where she was appointed chief of the Child Support Enforcement Unit. She managed 18 attorneys and was also appointed director of the Family Justice Center Initiative. In addition, she developed an initiative setting appointments of counsel for child support enforcement cases and a jobs program matching unemployed parents with employers. She participates actively with local and statewide bar associations. She has received awards and recognitions from community, educational and governmental organizations. The candidate is described by other judges and lawyers as hard working, intelligent, patient, caring, approachable, an excellent listener and a superb mentor. Lawyers who appeared before the candidate recount her superior knowledge and practical application of the law.” Endorsed by PA Dems, 8th Ward.
The Superior Court is one of two Pennsylvania intermediate appellate courts. Appeal to the Superior Court is generally from final decisions of the courts of common pleas. Although different panels of three judges may sit to hear appeals, there is only one Superior Court (that is, Pennsylvania is not divided into appellate territories). The court is based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and sits to hear cases in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. There are 15 Judges of the Superior Court and currently only one Judge is a person of color. In 2021, we are electing one new judge to the Superior Court. There are three Democratic candidates vying for this one spot.
We have three excellent Democratic candidates but we can only vote for one.
#3. Timika Lane. Timika comes from a family of strong women dedicated to public service. Her mother was a police detective, and Timika was a public school teacher before becoming a lawyer. She has almost 20 years legal experience in a wide range of areas. She began her law career as a law clerk for Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes, followed that with a year in family law in private practice, and then worked for 5 years in the Defender Association of Philadelphia. Then from 2009 to 2014, she worked in government, as Chief Counsel and Minority Executive Director, to State Senator Anthony H. Williams in the PA Senate. She was elected to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in 2013, where she has been assigned to the criminal division.
Rated Recommended by the PA Bar, which wrote, “The candidate was appointed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to co-chair a County Adult Probation Committee. She demonstrates her commitment to the legal profession through the instruction of continuing legal education courses and other educational activities. The candidate’s writing is well-reasoned, clear and concise. She demonstrates a commitment to public service and has extensive community involvement.”
Her community service is indeed wide and deep. Multiple Chancellors of the Philadelphia Bar Association appointed her as Co-Chair of Advancing Civic Education (ACE,) in which judges and lawyers teach civics to high school students. She has held leadership roles in her church, is active in the The National Coalition of 100 Black Women; The Black Brain Campaign, and has served on countless Boards.We have an opportunity to elect this highly qualified Judge and dedicated public servant to the Superior Court. I urge your support for Timika Lane. Endorsed by the 8th Ward.
Other candidates are:
#2. Jill Beck. Rated Recommended by the PA Bar. and another very impressive candidate. She began her legal career in 2006, working for Kids Voice, a private nonprofit organization that represents abused, neglected and at-risk children from Allegheny County in dependency and ancillary matters From 2010 to 2015, she was a law clerk with Superior Court Judge Christine Donahue. She continued her work with Justice Donahue on the Supreme Court from 2015 to 2019. From October 2019 to December 2020 she worked with Blank Rome in the litigation group. However, she has never herself been a judge. In giving her a Recommended rating, the PA bar wrote: “She is intelligent, focused and displays the judicial temperament of patience, courtesy, impartiality and even temper.”
#4. Bryan Neft. Another good candidate Rated Recommended by the PA Bar. which wrote, “Following law school graduation, the candidate was briefly employed in private practice before taking a four-year position as a law clerk to a Superior Court judge. He returned to private practice engaging in general practice that evolved into commercial litigation with a focus on complex insurance defense. The candidate’s writing is skillful and displays a formidable knowledge of trial-related issues. He is hard working, has a reputation for excellent character and integrity, and possesses a calm temperament. The candidate has contributed to the legal profession by teaching legal education classes and serving in leadership capacities for various bar associations. The candidate is also actively involved with charitable organizations in his community. He exhibits a commitment to equal justice for all and has demonstrated sound judgment in his professional life.”
The Commonwealth Court, is one of two Pennsylvania intermediate appellate courts. This nine-judge body decides civil disputes involving the state itself and hears appeals against decisions made by state agencies. Of the current 9 members, only are 2 Democrats and none are people of color. I would like to change that. The two retiring judges are both Republicans. Last year, the court notably handed the Trump campaign and other 2020 election challengers some of their only legal wins, though the Pennsylvania Supreme Court eventually overturned those decisions. This Commonwealth Court is very important as it will rule on the Fair School Funding case and a case on whether Philadelphia can have its own Gun Control ordinances.
We have two openings on the Commonwealth Court in 2021, and we have four excellent Democratic candidates competing for those two spots.
#5. David Lee Spurgeon. The only candidate for this office rated Highly Recommended by the PA Bar, which wrote, “The candidate began his career at a law firm where his practice was primarily personal injury. In 2009, he joined the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office. After eight years of prosecuting domestic violence cases, he was promoted to deputy district attorney where, in addition to his prosecutorial responsibilities, he was also responsible for supervising attorneys assigned to the domestic violence, mental health and municipal courts. While at the District Attorney’s Office, the candidate became a certified police instructor for the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County Police Academies and was integral in developing the Veterans Court and Repeat Batterers accountability dockets. In 2016, he was appointed to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas and was subsequently re-elected to the bench. He is assigned to the family division but also presides over certain orphans’ and civil division cases. The candidate has strong ties to his community and holds leadership roles in various nonprofit organizations, participates in a local program for teens in underserved communities, and is an adjunct professor at Duquesne University School of Law. The candidate exhibits the legal ability sufficient to have earned the respect of lawyers and members of the bench and, during his interview with the commission, he displayed confidence, integrity and excellent judicial temperament.” We enthusiastically endorse Spurgeon for Commonwealth Court. Endorsed by 8th Ward
#6. Lori A. Dumas. Rated Recommended by PA Bar.
Another outstanding neighbor in the 8th Ward! Judge Dumas was raised in Philadelphia by a single mother, a high school dropout who worked long shifts in a factory to provide for her three children, and tirelessly encouraged them to get the education she had missed. She not only succeeded in raising highly successful children, but in her late 40’s she went back to school got her GED, earned a college degree, and became a teacher. Judge Dumas credits her mother with always encouraging her “to do more and be more.” Judge Dumas has indeed done more and been more, as her mother hoped.
As someone particularly concerned with young girls being victimized by sex traffickers, I am particularly impressed by Judge Dumas’s anti-trafficking work. In 2015, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) gave its first ever Justice Innovator Award to Judge Dumas, for her work presiding over the WRAP (Working to Restore Adolescents’ Power) Court. According to the NCJFCJ website, “WRAP is an innovative new court program of the First Judicial District Family Court Division that seeks to provide alternatives to criminalization for minor victims of sex trafficking by providing specialized trauma-informed treatment to victims in the least restrictive and most holistic environment.Children who have been arrested and identified as victims of sexual trafficking are offered an opportunity to participate in WRAP through a pre-trial diversion program. The goal of the team, and the program, is to work collaboratively with the child to promote treatment, healing and restoration, and ensure the safety of the child victim in the least restrictive setting possible. Rather than adjudicating these children delinquent for crimes that directly result from their sexual exploitation, the WRAP program diverts the child from the adjudicatory system into the child welfare system, empowering them to heal and move away from their trauma…“Judge Dumas has a reputation for being a tough, no-nonsense but fair judge,” said Ebony D. Wortham, Esq., assistant district attorney, director of truancy prevention for the Philadelphia district attorney’s office. “This work, which I believe she was born to do, has stretched her beyond the traditional judicial role. While ensuring that this population is held accountable, she often provides a shoulder to cry on, a hug at the perfect time, words of affirmation, and even forgiveness and grace to help counteract the devastating impact of human trafficking.”
The PA Bar describes her qualifications thus,”the candidate has been a judge in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas since 2002 where she has presided over family, criminal and civil division cases. Prior to becoming a judge, the candidate was a general practitioner who litigated various types of cases with the majority being criminal- and family law-related matters. The candidate was a contributing author of the 2018 Pennsylvania Juvenile Delinquency Benchbook and is currently co-authoring a digital resource in partnership with the American Medical Association. The candidate has been repeatedly recognized for her excellent work and service to the community, and she has received numerous awards, recognitions and distinctions from a wide array of community, governmental and legal organizations. The candidate is well respected among her peers, being described as possessing intellectual curiosity and as being prepared for her judicial duties. Attorneys who appeared before the candidate describe her as fair with good judicial temperament.”
Judge Dumas is committed to improving representation and accuracy of the court’s rulings through her unique perspective as an African-American woman from Southeast Philadelphia. Through her work with victimized children and human trafficking, Judge Dumas learned the critical nature of the Court’s work and how it can be used for great positive impact. Judge Dumas believes it’s the Court’s duty to protect the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians, including seniors, the impoverished, the mentally ill, minors and other marginalized citizens.
As a Commonwealth Court judge, Judge Dumas would have the tools to make a huge difference for Pennsylvania. “I could continue to help families and children,” she said, “by impacting the systems that impact lives: education, healthcare, and others.” I strongly urge you to support Judge Dumas. Endorsed by 8th Ward.
#7. Sierra Street. Rated Recommended by the PA Bar. A judge in the Court of Common Pleas for 7 years, Street previously worked as a hearing officer in Philadelphia Family Court, and as a trial attorney at the Defender Association of Philadelphia
#8. Amanda Green Hawkins. Rated Recommend by the PA Bar. Hawkins was formerly an elected member of county council and ran for Superior Court in 2019. The PA Bar says that she “has been an attorney with the United Steelworkers since September 2002 in a variety of roles, the most recent being assistant general counsel and director of civil and human rights. In these roles, she is one of more than 2,000 union lawyers across the country who provide legal counsel and advice for a diverse set of issues, including civil liberties. The candidate has an extensive administrative law background having appeared before a variety of federal and state agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. The candidate has an impressive record of service to her local community, supporting causes associated with voter rights and women’s issues. She is highly regarded by her peers, who describe her as honest, hard-working, impartial and even-tempered. While the candidate’s current position does not afford her the opportunity to author many appellate briefs, the commission found her writing samples to be clear and concise. The commission believes that the candidate will perform well as a judge on the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania and recommends her candidacy.”
In Pennsylvania, the courts of General Jurisdiction are known as Court of Common Pleas. Philadelphia is both a city and a county and is the 1st Judicial District of Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has 101 Judges. This court has three divisions: the Trial Division (which includes both civil and criminal), the Family Division, and the Orphans Court Division. In 2021, we are electing 8 new Judges to the Court of Common Pleas.
In 2021, we have nine judicial candidates we recommend for the Court of Common Pleas. We can only vote for 8. It’s a problem.The 8th ward chose 8, after long deliberation. I support those 8 candidates. However, I also support Chris Hall which makes 9. I provide information on all these 9 candidates and let you decide. In considering your decision, I invite you to keep in mind that ballot position has played a key role in which candidates have been elected in the past. A low ballot number has been a great help; a hgh ballot number has been a great challenge. In choosing your candidates, you may or may not want to think about which candidates need your vote most.
#11. Wendi Barish. She is our neighbor in the 5th Ward and friends with many of us. In full disclosure, I confess she has even commented favorably on some of my pictures on Facebook, but of course I am immune to flattery. Wendi Barish began her legal career more than 25 years ago representing employees in employment discrimination matters involving federal, state, and local discrimination laws, and also representing clients in workers’ compensation, social security and unemployment matters. After three years doing that, she moved to a firm where she handled civil litigation in a large defense practice which concentrated on employment related matters and disputes. Then in 2005, she became a Partner, Vice Chair of Employment Group and Co-Chair of Civil Rights Group at Weber Gallagher, where she specialized in employment law and civil rights litigation for 10 years. Finally, from 2015 to now, Wendi has been at Philadelphia Housing Authority where she has held a number of positions. From December 2015 to 2018 she was Deputy General Counsel, Labor and Employment. From 2016-2017, she has was appointed Acting Executive Vice President of Human Resources. Then in 2018 she was promoted to Senior Deputy General Counsel. In this role she supervises both outside counsel and in-house attorneys in the areas of general liability, premises liability, contract disputes, landlord-tenant disputes, employment law and civil rights. This is the third time Barish has run for Judge of Common Pleas and I think the third time will be the charm. Barish is rated Recommended by the Bar, endorsed by City Committee, the 8th ward, many other wards, a host of labor unions, PA Working Families party, Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks and Governor Rendell and Malcolm Kenyatta, among others.
#12. Craig Levin is certainly no stranger to the 8th Ward, where he has served as a committee person with us until very recently. Nevertheless, you may not know much about his legal career of 33 years. Craig has spent 33 years as a trial attorney in Philadelphia. He has handled in excess of 2,000 cases in state and federal courts and private arbitration proceedings. Craig has represented clients in a wide variety of matters in his legal career including personal injury suits, contract disputes, criminal defense cases, estate issues and family law matters, among others. He is recommended by the Philadelphia Bar Association and serves on their Board of Governors, having been elected by in 2019 by his fellow Bar members. He is endorsed by the Philadelphia Democratic Party City Committee and many labor unions and state and local politicians.
In addition to his own practice, Craig is the Chair of the legal department of the Philadelphia Democratic Party. In this role he manages the pro bono program which provides legal services for underserved committee people. Craig has handled in excess of 80 pro bono matters in the last year and a half. These matters consist of issues involving support and custody, landlord and tenant, estate matters involving tangled titles, criminal and civil matters. He is also a volunteer attorney for the SeniorLAW Center.
In addition to his pro bono work, Craig is a volunteer and Board member of the Community Forgiveness and Restoration Initiative. CFRI works to provide incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals with the skills, resources, and job training needed to successfully reintegrate back into the community after release from prison. He has for many years volunteered his time for and served as pro-bono counsel of SALEA, an organization that supports food kitchens, college scholarships and a host of other services to members of the Philadelphia Latino Community. Craig also served as a youth hockey coach for 17 years. Rated Recommended by the Philadelphia Bar, Endorsed by City Committee, 8th Ward and many other wards and unions.
#13. Cateria McCabe has practiced law for three decades in a wide variety of areas and is now a Judge on the Court of Common Pleas, appointed by Wolf in December 2019. She serves in the Family Court division where she hears Department of Human Services (DHS) cases regarding children who are abused, neglected and or truant. She writes, “While many of these cases are heart wrenching, it has been a great honor to serve Philadelphians in this capacity.” Prior to this she served as Arraignment Court Magistrate presiding over bail hearings from August 2019 to December 2019. Before serving on the bench, she worked from 2013 to 2019 with the Senior Law Project, a nonprofit which serves seniors.There she was the Director of Veterans, Kinship Care and Tenant Rights. Her career has included a solo private practice ( 2010-2013) where she did general civil practice, work at a law firm where she prepared wills, living wills, powers of attorney and data for estate accounting, and drafted divorce pleadings, work as an Arbitrator for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, and from 2005-2009 work at the Adoption Resource Center. She began her career in the City of Philadelphia Law Department where she worked as an Assistant City Solicitor from 1991-1997. Finally, she was in the Army Reserves from1987-1995. Judge McCabe has an excellent reputation as a judge. Recommended by the Phila. Bar, endorsed by City Commitee, the 8th Ward and many other wards, Reclaim and Neighborhood Networks. She deserves your support.
#14. Nick Kamau is one of only five candidates for the Court of Common Pleas who received a Highly Recommended Rating from the Bar. Mr.Kamau has had a varied legal career in several states and with many different jobs. He began his legal career in the Defender Association of Philadelphia, where he worked for 3 years from 2003-2007. He next worked in California in private practice for year at a firm handling civil injury cases before going to work in the Oakland City’s attorney’s office for 9 months where he handled non-jury criminal cases. Next he worked in the Denver District Attorney’s office for a year where he handled criminal jury trials before moving to DC to work for a year with the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the Obama Administration. Five months later he was in New Jersey working at law firm handling civil cases for a year, followed by a year in the New Jersey’s Attorney General’s office where he handled criminal cases. In May 2016 he returned to Philadelphia and worked for two years in the Philadelphia City Solicitor’s office.Then from July 2018 to September 2020 he worked at Gay and Chacker where he handled personal injury and civil rights cases. Currently he is a partner at Legis Group LLC where he handles commercial litigation. Kamau is endorsed by City Committee. 8th Ward, many other wards, Reclaim, Senator Sharif Street.
#15. Daniel R Sulman. Sulman is currently a Judge on the Court of Common Pleas, Family division, appointed by Governor Wolf in December 2019. Prior to that he worked as Master in Support in the Domestic Relations Branch of the Philadelphia Family Court from 2003 to 2016. In 2016, he was appointed by Governor Wolf to the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court assigned to Domestic Relations Branch of Family Court. This judicial commission expired in 2018 after which he was appointed a Master in Custody in the Domestic Relations Branch of the Philadelphia Family Court, where he served until 2019. In 2019 he was elected as a Board member of the Philadelphia Board of Revision of Taxes. Since 2019 he has been a Judge on the Court of Common Pleas. As you can see from the above, he has had extensive experience in Family Court. He is extremely well regarded for his knowledge of family law. Sulman has run for Judge 3 times before and not been elected. He deserves our support. Recommended by Philadelphia Bar and Endorsed by City Committee, and the 8th Ward, Reclaim, Neighborhood Networks and several unions.
#18. Betsy Wahl. Her name might be familiar to you. She was an unsuccessful candidate in 2015, 2017, and 2019. She is an outstanding candidate who has been sunk by getting bad ballot positions over and over. This year she again got a “bad” ballot number again. Voters, it’s time for you to step up and vote for Betsy to be judge. She has over 36 years experience in Philadelphia’s courtrooms. She is currently a Juvenile Court Hearing Officer, where since 2002 she has presided over dispositions, probation reviews and violations, placement reviews and violations. Prior to that, she worked from 1984-1989 at the Defender Association of Philadelphia and from 1990-1999 as a mediator and for Adoptions both privately and for the city.
Judge Benjamin Lerner wrote a letter urging Governor Wolf to appoint her as judge, stating that as presiding judge of the Court’s Direct File/Decertification calendar, he had “opportunity to work closely with Master Wahl on many of the cases in which teenagers charged with offenses in adult court where decertified and transferred back to juvenile court for disposition of their cases.… In all these cases Master Wahl demonstrated integrity, fairness, wisdom and compassion.Everyone in her courtroom came to realize that they were appearing before a judicial officer of the highest caliber. There were no “routine matters’ involving the rights of the parties and the demonstrated needs of these juvenile defendants as far as she was concerned. I respectfully suggest that Betsy Wahl has already demonstrated the kind of Common Pleas judge she would be. The Court and the Commonwealth would benefit greatly if she is afforded the opportunity to serve.” Rated Recommended by Philadelphia Bar, endorsed by City Committee, 8th Ward and many other progressive wards, Reclaim and Neighborhood Networks. She deserves your support.
#19. Michele Hangley. One of only 5 Philadelphia Bar Highly Recommended rated candidates, Michele has a long and distinguished career in Philadelphia. I also personally know Michele from her work as a Board member for NSC, Nationalities Service Center, an organization I have been involved with and supported for over 30 years. IF YOU VOTE FOR ONLY ONE CANDIDATE, PLEASE VOTE FOR MICHELE.
Her most important case prior to 2020 is one that is probably known to you. She was co-lead counsel for Governor Wolf in the Pennsylvania Congressional Redistricting Litigation, which resulted in the PA Supreme Court ruling that then existing congressional map in 2017 violated the Pennsylvania Constitution and a new map should be drawn. She then argued and the court agreed that it was possible to implement a new map in time for the 2018 Primary Election. The litigation had a major impact on Commonwealth politics. In recent years, even though Pennsylvania’s votes for Congresspeople have generally split nearly evenly between Republicans and Democrats, the Commonwealth’s congressional delegation had 13 Republicans and 5 Democrats. Today, due at least in part to the Court-ordered redistricting, the delegation is evenly split, with 9 Republicans and 9 Democrats. The litigation may also have an impact on the legal arguments made in gerrymandering cases in other states, because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court based its ruling on its interpretation of a clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution that appears in many other states’ constitutions.
More recently, her most significant work was fighting a series of challenges to Pennsylvania’s mail in ballots and other procedures for the 2020 Primary and general election. The Trump Campaign and several Republican entities sued Secretary Boockvar and each of the Commonwealth’s 67 counties, challenging the counties’ use of drop boxes for mail-in and absentee ballots, statutory restrictions on poll watchers and ballot review procures. She was co-counsel in four large counties (Bucks, Chester, Montgomery and Philadelphia) in coordination with counsel for the Commonwealth and other counties. The Judge ruled in favor of the Secretary Boockvar and the counties, and saved the election for Biden.
In case, you want some additional background on Michele, here it is. After law school, she worked for a year as a law clerk for Judge Kravitch in Georgia, 2 years as an associate at Dechert in Philadelphia, and then in 2002 joined Hangley, Aronchick Segal Pudlin and Schiller Law firm in Philadelphia where she continues to today. She has represented individuals, law firms, businesses, and government agencies in Pennsylvania appellate courts, federal courts, administrative agencies, and arbitral tribunals. She represented a young Iraqi man pro bono in his political asylum case and won. She defended a small nonprofit pediatric nursing facility against a large for-profit out of state competitor.
Although City Committee has endorsed a good slate of candidates for Court of Common Pleas this year, we urge you to vote for this one candidate they did not endorse. The 8th ward agrees. Hangley is endorsed by the 1st, 2nd, 8th, 27th wards, and other wards, Nikil Saval, Malcolm Kenyatta, Anthony Williams, Reclaim and Neighborhood Networks. She deserves your support.
#22. Chris Hall is an extremely impressive candidate, one of only 5 candidates to receive the Highly Recommended rating from the Phila Bar. He has practiced law for over 30 years, both as a prosecutor and defense attorney in both civil and criminal cases. After a year as a law clerk to a judge in Vermont, he worked for six years as a general litigation associate in private practice in Philadelphia, and then for 16 years in the United States Attorney’s Office from 1990 to 2006. Toward the end of his career there, he focused on parallel criminal and civil fraud actions. He also investigated and prosecuted criminal fraud, including environmental and public corruption crimes that victimized Philadelphians. While in the US Attorney’s office he brought the first “environmental justice” prosecution in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. This case was about demolishing the Grant Paper Company factory on the Delaware River. The demotion company demolished the factory without first removing the asbestos and then dumped the contaminated debris on a plot in a residential area in Southwest Philadelphia adjacent to Cobbs Creel. A jury convicted the demolition contractor of criminal violations of the Clean Air act. Since 2006, Hall has worked at Saul Ewing, where he chairs the White Collar Defense and Government Litigation Practice. For the past 12 years he has focused on state and federal qui tam whistleblower litigation, state and federal criminal and civil fraud litigation, state consumer protection litigation, state and federal anti-competition investigations and litigation, and general state court business litigation.
In his Bar Questionnaire he states, “I have practiced for 30 plus years in the courts both as a prosecutor and defense attorney in both civil and criminal matters. My court appearances on both sides of the aisle include approximately 40 trials. This work has permitted me to develop an expertise with the rules of evidence, a wide variety of legal standards, and the art of crafting well-written pleadings.It has also given me a deep appreciation for the human dimension of trial work, including the needs of victims, witnesses, experts, clients, and jurors. Outside the courtroom, I have managed and mentored a team of ten plus junior attorneys, and have administered a budget as the practice group Chair. My clients have commended me to Chambers USA, the leading directory of attorneys for in-house counsel. I am also steeped in the Philadelphia community as founder and board chair of the Breakthrough Bike Challenge—a cancer research fundraiser which has raised over $1,000,000 for cancer research and for which we expect 350 riders this year. I believe the professional and personal references I have provided will describe me as hardworking, curious, courteous, and even-keeled. I have always derived satisfaction from public service (my grandparents, mother and wife were all teachers and serve as wonderful role models). Finally, I speak Spanish fluently and relish the cross cultural experiences and friendships my “second tongue” makes possible. I hope to use my education, experience, and administrative skills to contribute positively to the legal process at the Court of Common Pleas.” Endorsed by City Committee, many progressive wards, Reclaim and Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks. I strongly believe he deserves your support.
#23. Mark J. Moore. One of only five Philadelphia Bar Highly Recommended Candidates for the Court of Common Pleas. Judge Moore was appointed to the Court of Common Pleas by Wolf in July 2020 and was assigned to the criminal division. Prior to his appointment to the bench, Moore had extensive criminal and civil experience. He began his legal career as a Law Clerk to Judge Brown on the Superior Court of New Jersey. He then served as Assistant DA for 13 years in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office. After that, he worked for 8 years defending civil cases for Allstate Insurance. He has diverse experience in both civil and criminal law. I believe he deserves your support.Endorsed by City Committee, 8th Ward, 27th Ward,Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, Laborers District Council, Sheet Metal Workers Local 19, Firefighters Local 22, AFCME District 1199c,Senator Sharif Street, Rep. Joanna McClinton
Other Democratic candidates who are recommended by the Bar.
#9. Caroline Turner. Rated Recommended by Phila. Bar. Turner, a newcomer to Philadelphia, has an interesting life story. Born in Germany to British military parents, her first career was as a nurse. After graduating from nursing school in London, she worked for a year and a half in that profession. She then lived for some years in Mexico where she began work on a graduate degree in bioethics, but left before completion. She continued her academic work in bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, and received a Master’s Degree in that field in 2001. Immediately thereafter she began Law School at Temple, where she obtained a JD in 2005, followed a LLM degree in Trial Advocacy in 2010 from that same institution. Her first legal jobs were as an Associate for 9 months in a law firm in Philadelphia, followed by 9 months as a Contract attorney at another firm. She then moved to New Jersey where she worked as a staff attorney in the Office of Public Defender, Cumberland County for 7 years, followed by 4 years as a staff attorney in the Public Defender Office in Mercer County. Since 2018 she has worked in Philadelphia in a medical malpractice firm. In her statement on the Bar Questionnaire, she writes, “Bail reform is perhaps the most pressing need in Philadelphia at this time. As a judge I can advocate for bail reform, and in my courtroom I can do more – I will use my authority to make judicial decisions consistent with bail reform. Instead of cash bail, I can use available community and therapeutic resources to support, treat, and supervise non-violent defendants to enable them to appear in court and to support them while out bail.” Endorsed by Reclaim.
#21. John R. Padova. Padova received a Highly Recommended Rating from the Philadelphia Bar, but we did not endorse him as a Democratic candidate because he was a registered Republican until very recently and we have many excellent Democratic candidates for this office. When questioned as to why he had changed his party registration, he answered that he only became a Republican because his father was a Republican and he wanted to show loyalty. His father was nominated to the US District Court for Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 1992 by President George H.W Bush, and he became a Senior Judge in 2008. It is to be noted that the Republican Party does not appear to have any candidates for Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas or Philadelphia Municipal Court in the 2021 Primary Election, so that is a possible reason Judge Padova has decided to run as a Democrat. He was endorsed by the 9th Ward, Sprinkler Fitters Local 692 and Councilmember Isaiah Thomas.
#24. Tamika Washington. Recommended by the Philadelphia Bar. It was hard for me to find out information about this candidate. Washington has run her own practice for 12 years. Recently she’s concentrated more on appellate work, employment, and probate. A change came in 2010 when she took on a pro bono case for a woman who had lost her home through deed forgery. Probate became a large part of her practice. Previously she worked as a Philadelphia Assistant City Solicitor where she litigated cases about the physical and mental well-being of children and their families. Washington said she is running for Common Pleas because it encompasses all the issues she’s been involved in: Juvenile, probate, civil, even criminal. I could find no endorsements.
Candidates not recommended by the Bar, so we did not consider them:
16.Patrick J Moran
Philadelphia Municipal Court is part of the same Judicial District but is only responsible for criminal cases carrying a maximum sentence of five years or less, civil matters where the amount of controversy is $12,000 or less, landlord and tenant cases of all kinds, and processing of every adult criminal arrest in Philadelphia. The Municipal Court has thee divisions: the Criminal Division, the Civil Division, and the Traffic Division. There are 27 judges elected to the Municipal Court in Philadelphia. Unlike the Court of Common Pleas, there is no right to a jury trial in Municipal Court and only the judge issues the verdict or judgement, so Municipal Court cases may be appealed to Court of Common Pleas.In 2021, we are voting for three new judges on the Municipal Court.
We are recommending and endorsing only 2 candidates, because only two candidates were rated Recommended by the Bar.
#27. George Twardy. Recommended by the Bar and endorsed by City Committee. He is currently a Judge on the Court of Common Pleas, having been appointed by Wolf in July, 2020. He has a long legal career, beginning in 1988, where he served as a law clerk to a federal district court judge, drafting and researching opinion and jury instructions regarding various matters involving federal agency regulations, and civil and criminal litigation. He then spent a year as an associate in a civil defense litigation firm. In 1992, he formed the law offices of George Twardy, Jr, and has continued as a private practitioner ever since with the general practice of law with an emphasis on personal injury, workmen’s compensation, criminal and administrative law. From 2016 to June 2020 he has been serving a a Hearing Officer in the Court of Common Pleas, Family Court Division, presiding over truancy and custody matters. We believe his over 32 years experience certainly qualifies him to serve on the Philadelphia Municipal Court and we urge you to support him. Endorsed by 8th Ward, City committee
#28. Greg Yorgey-Girdy is running to be the first openly gay black judge on the Municipal Court. Endorsed by City Committee and Recommended by the Philadelphia Bar. He began his legal career in the Philadelphia City Solicitor”s office in 2002, where he worked for three years. He then moved to a private firm as an associate, where he managed civil actions. From 2007- 2014, he worked as a contract attorney and from 2014 to 2019 he worked as a conflict attorney. In 2019 he started his current job with Potter Anderson in which he specializes in conflict of interest issues. His campaign emphasizes his community involvement with last summer’s Philly Queer March for Black Lives. He is the owner and operator of an interracial gay family blog, www.dadaddykids.com. He describes it in his bar Questionnaire thus, “The blog is about two interracial gay dads raising three beautifully diverse children with the hope of encouraging other queer couples to adopt. Our goal is to facilitate an on-going, open-minded and sincere dialog between urbanite families, adoptive families, in vitro parents, interracial families, queer parents, and queer couples. Through this dialog, it os our hope to encourage the creation of beautiful modern families.” Endorsed by 8th Ward, Reclaim, City Committee
The other two candidates were not recommended by the Philadelphia Bar so we did not endorse them.
#25. Michael C. Lambert. Endorsed by City Committee. Has practiced law for almost twenty years, for the last dozen in his own firm,Michael Lambert LLC.
#26. Barbara Thomson. Since graduating from Brooklyn Law School in 1994, she has been working for MTA New York City Transit and as a self-employed consultant on major public sector projects implementing projects fairly and equitably. She describes her work as developing and negotiating public policy for access to public services and implementing equitable solutions as well as resolving high-level disputes. Though impressive, this has not involved courtroom experience and has all been arbitration.
District Attorney (Vote for 1)
#30. Larry Krasner. This is a very difficult time in Philadelphia. Crime is up. Is Krasner to blame because of his progressive policies? I think not. Homicides and gun violence are up everywhere during this pandemic, not only in cities with progressive DA’s, and the need for reform in the criminal justice system has never been greater.
Krasner ran on a platform of ending mass incarceration, reviewing past convictions and freeing the wrongfully convicted, stopping cash bail imprisonment, opposing the death penalty, and treating addiction as a medical problem. How has he done?
Regarding ending mass incarceration, he points out that his administration is "generating about half as many future years of incarceration as prior administrations did.” The number of people in jail in Philadelphia has fallen by nearly 30 percent. Since taking office in 2018, Krasner has collectively reduced future incarceration of people convicted of crimes in Philadelphia by more than 20,000 years, compared to what was imposed during the four years preceding his tenure. Future probation and parole sentences have been reduced by more than 81,000 years, according to data published by his office. In March 2019, he instituted a policy where his office now only seeks a maximum of 12 months of probation or parole for a person convicted of a misdemeanor and a maximum of three years for a person convicted of a felony. The number of children charged as adults has dropped substantially. He has prosecuted significantly fewer cases than his predecessor
Since he became DA, 18 people have been exonerated who had been wrongly convicted and spent decades in prison. He has not sought the death penalty in a single case.
Critics on the right say Krasner’s policies threaten public safety and have caused a surge in violence in the city. Critics on the left argue that he has not gone far enough: His office still seeks cash bail and asks that people convicted of certain crimes be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, or death by incarceration.
In March, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, his office instituted a binary policy to either request judges hold people pretrial if they are charged with certain violent crimes, or release people without cash bail. The office asked to hold any person it felt was a public safety threat, including people charged in a shooting, people charged with rape, and people with felony convictions charged with illegal possession of firearm. And it asked for extremely high bail amounts in those instances—$999,999. (One dollar more would have triggered certain holding conditions, Krasner’s spokesperson Jane Roh said, including requiring the person be held in isolation.)
But the result has inflamed tensions on all sides. Bail magistrates, judges who ultimately set bail and have been sued in recent years for setting it at unreasonable levels, only complied with Krasner’s nearly $1 million requests in 2 percent of cases, setting lower bail amounts in 90 percent of them, according to Roh. Krasner criticized magistrates for setting bail in an amount that the person charged is able to pay, amid criticism from his opponents on the right that some people who were released went on to commit new crimes.
“This is really where the tire meets the road. I am not an abolitionist,” Krasner said. “I do not think there should be no jails whatsoever. I do not believe there should be no cops whatsoever.”
I strongly believe we should re-elect Krasner to continue to combat mass incarceration and undo the damage done by his punitive predecessors. Endorsed by 8th Ward, and 1st Ward, 2nd Ward, 4th Ward, 5th Ward, 9th Ward, 10th Ward, 17th Ward, 20th Ward, 27th Ward, 28th Ward, 29th Ward, 32nd Ward, 33rd Ward, 42nd Ward, 47th Ward, 50th Ward, 61st Ward, Neighborhood Networks, Reclaim, Black Clergy of Philadelphia, Philadelphia AFL-CIO, Color of Change, SEIU, Working Families Party and many others.
29. Carlos Vega. In an April 21 opinion article published in the Philadelphia Citizen, Shannon Coleman recounts her chilling experience with then Prosecutor Carlos Vega. I will quote it below: “In 1993, a Philadelphia jury convicted Tony Wright of raping and murdering my aunt, Louise Talley. Prosecutors told my family that the trial would bring us both the closure and the healing we badly needed, but nothing could have been further from the truth… After Tony spent 20 years in prison, DNA testing showed that someone else committed the rape and murder—someone who could have easily been a suspect in the case from the beginning, had the police and prosecutors done their jobs properly and ethically. The court reversed Tony’s conviction.
Incredibly, prosecutors—including Carlos Vega, who is now trying to unseat Larry Krasner in his bid for district attorney—decided to retry Tony, keeping him behind bars for years awaiting retrial. They knew about the DNA evidence that pointed to another man, but they didn’t care.
Mr. Vega and his team relentlessly pursued Tony, feeding me and the rest of my family false information about the facts of the case. Prosecutors even told us the DNA was inconclusive, which was patently false. The jury acquitted Tony in an hour, and when Larry Krasner took office in 2018, his Conviction Integrity Unit agreed that Tony was innocent.
Vega’s actions caused rippling and lasting damage to my family, and to Tony and his family, but like so many people with power whose mistakes are laid bare, Vega has refused to closely examine, rethink or reconsider his own actions and behavior. Now, my family and I, abandoned and tormented by the approach to prosecution that Vega admires so much, are reliving that pain as he tries to take over the top law enforcement job in the city.
I cringe at the thought that we might go back to a District Attorney’s office where prosecutors run roughshod over the legal system while poor, vulnerable, and disadvantaged citizens get the short end of the stick. That is what has happened with the offices run by Lynne Abraham, Seth Williams, and Ron Castille. Each one enacted policies focused on winning, rather than on uncovering the truth.
Under these administrations, people cheated and lied, even if it meant that, decades later, families like mine would learn that the D.A.’s office had not only failed to obtain justice for our loss, but had also knowingly sent the wrong person to prison. Under D.A. Krasner, 18 people have been exonerated in less than four years. It is terrifying to imagine how many other innocent people may be sitting behind bars.
These types of injustices make our city less safe, not more so. Under Lynne Abraham, Philadelphia was a dangerous place, more so than it is now. People did not trust the police, and witnesses did not show up for trial or even speak to prosecutors. As a result, guilty people got away with devastating crimes, and innocent people were locked up. And as I can attest, victims were treated with respect only if they cooperated with prosecutors’ demands and agreed to believe the falsehoods they perpetuated.
Carlos Vega did not treat me, or my family, with the respect, honesty, and compassion we as victims deserved. He did me no favors by lying to me, misleading me, and punishing an innocent man. He has only increased my family’s tremendous suffering.
Carlos Vega flourished in a prosecutorial culture of winning-at-all-costs, no matter the collateral damage inflicted. Krasner has started to change that, by exonerating the innocent, holding police accountable, and by carefully examining the policies that broke community trust while failing to increase safety. The city needs to keep marching forward to this drumbeat of change, leaving behind the atrocities of prior administrations. I know that Carlos Vega will only bring them back, and we cannot allow that to happen.”
As an addition to the above story, WHYY, reports “Vega also accepted money from Manuel Santiago, a retired Philadelphia homicide detective who was questioned in 2016 over allegations he coerced a 1991 murder and rape confession out of Anthony Wright — a man who was later exonerated. Vega, an ADA at the time, defended Santiago’s work on behalf of the DA’s office during a retrial of the murder-rape that raised questions about the confession’s authenticity. Santiago donated $500 to Vega’s campaign. When WHYY reporters brought this to the campaign’s attention, Vega campaign manager Trevor Maloney said they would refund that donation and another from a second detective that worked the Wright case, Frank Jastrzembski.
Wright, who still resides in Philadelphia and supports Krasner, found the donations disturbing.“I was wrongfully incarcerated at the hands of these detectives and this [assistant] district attorney,” he said. “It’s insane. Someone that’s been in the situation I’ve been in, an exoneree, it’s hard to wrap your head around.” From the Inquirer, McNesby, head of the local FOP “confirmed his union is helping Republicans become Democrats to vote for Vega.“I’m doing whatever I can to support Carlos Vega, whether that’s money, robocalls, switching people over, leaflets, putting people out on the street on election day,” McNesby said. “We’ve got our hand in every pocket, every pot, to pull votes out for Carlos Vega.”
City Controller (Vote for 1)
#31. Rebecca Rhynhart. She’s running unopposed, but she nevertheless deserves your support. As the Inquirer reported on March 2, “Rebecca Rhynhart became Philadelphia city controller as a political novice who beat the party-favored incumbent in the primary, Four years later, Rhynhart is poised to go unchallenged in both the May Democratic primary and November’s general election. Her background is in finance — she worked as city treasurer and budget director in former Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration, and previously worked on Wall Street. But she has also focused on other issues, including commissioning an independent investigation of the city’s response to last year’s protest against police brutality. That investigation included new details about Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw’s decision to use tear gas, and much of the report’s criticism of city leadership focused on her. But Rhynhart notably focused on Kenney when she released the report in January.“The mayor can’t just say, ‘Well, I don’t have to make any decisions, so therefore I’m not to blame,’” Rhynhart said then. “The mayor’s supposed to be in charge.” She deserves your support, even if she has no opposition in this race
Margaret Harris’s May 18 Election Day Recommendations
There are five Ballot Questions.
Ballot Question 1 Constitutional Amendment 1:
Termination or Extension of Emergency Declaration Amendment.
VOTE NO: We do not want to limit the governor’s powers to protect Pennsylvanians in an emergency.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment
Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law and increase the power of the General Assembly to unilaterally terminate or extend a disaster emergency declaration—and the powers of Commonwealth agencies to address the disaster regardless of its severity pursuant to that declaration—through passing a concurrent resolution by simple majority, thereby removing the existing check and balance of presenting a resolution to the Governor for approval or disapproval?
Plain English Statement of the Office of Attorney General
Joint Resolution No. 2021-1 proposes to amend Article III, Section 9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution to provide a new exception to traditional legislative procedure by allowing the General Assembly to terminate or extend a disaster emergency declaration or a portion of such declaration without needing the Governor’s approval. It will change the law to allow the General Assembly to terminate or extend a disaster emergency declaration through a concurrent resolution approved by only a majority of the members of the House and Senate, without having to present the resolution to the Governor for his approval or veto.
Ballot Question 2: Constitutional Amendment 2:
Disaster emergency declaration and management.
VOTE NO: We do not want to limit the Governor’s power to protect Pennsylvanians to only 21 days in an emergency.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment
Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law so that: a disaster emergency declaration will expire automatically after 21 days, regardless of the severity of the emergency, unless the General Assembly takes action to extend the disaster emergency; the Governor may not declare a new disaster emergency to respond to the dangers facing the Commonwealth unless the General Assembly passes a concurrent resolution; the General Assembly enacts new laws for disaster management?
Plain Language: According to the Office of the Attorney General, this amendment would:
Grant the governor authority to declare a disaster emergency declaration by proclamation or executive order;
Require each declaration to indicate the nature, location and type of disaster; grant the General Assembly authority to pass laws providing for the manner in which each disaster shall be managed; limit the duration of a governor’s declaration to 21 days, unless otherwise extended, in whole or in part, by a concurrent resolution of the General Assembly; prevent the governor, upon the expiration of a declaration, from issuing a new declaration based upon the same or substantially similar facts, unless the General Assembly passes a concurrent resolution expressly approving a new declaration.
Ballot Question 3 Constitutional Amendment 3:
Prohibition against denial or abridgment of equality of rights because of racer ethnicity.
VOTE YES for racial and ethnic equality in Pennsylvania.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment
Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended by adding a new section providing that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of an individual’s race or ethnicity?
Plain English Statement of the Office of Attorney General
if passed, this amendment would make it illegal to restrict or deny an individual’s equal rights under Pennsylvania law because of race or ethnicity.
Ballot Question 4: Statewide Referendum
Making Municipal Fire and Emergency Medical Services Eligible for Loans.
VOTE YES because we need to be able to provide fire departments with the ability to replace outmoded or unsafe equipment and buildings to meet the increased demands for a higher level of service in the communities they serve. Vote for public safety.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment
Do you favor expanding the use of the indebtedness authorized under the referendum for loans to volunteer fire companies, volunteer ambulance services and volunteer rescue squads under 35 PA.C.S. §7378.1 (related to referendum for additional indebtedness) to include loans to municipal fire departments or companies that provide services through paid personnel and emergency medical services companies for the purpose of establishing and modernizing facilities to house apparatus equipment, ambulances and rescue vehicles, and for purchasing apparatus equipment, ambulances and rescue vehicles, protective and communications equipment and any other accessory equipment necessary for the proper performance of the duties of the fire companies and emergency medical services companies?
Plain Language: The purpose of the ballot question, according to the Attorney General, is to determine whether Pennsylvania voters authorize making municipal fire departments or companies with paid personnel and emergency medical services companies eligible to apply for loans from an already existing state loan program. This referendum does not authorize incurring any additional debt to fund the loan program; it only expands the class of eligible loan applicants.
Question 5: Proposed Philadelphia Home Rule Charter Change:
VOTE YES A “yes” vote would allow the Board to increase to nine members from its current 6 members, and allow the Board Chair to designate groups of three members to hear and decide cases, which would allow the process to move more quickly. Currently, a majority of the six members must be present to hear and decide cases. So having both an expansion of the Board to 9 members and allowing hearings with only three designated members would make it possible for the process to move much faster. This is the Board which handles complaints that the city created a hardship with some decision that they made. The longer the city takes to respond to requests and hearings and meetings, the higher the risk of the city being sued for missing deadlines and not being able to respond to issues on time. It would be good to speed up the process.
Ballot Language: Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for an expanded Board of License Inspection Review that can hear and decide cases in three-member panels?
Plain Language: The City’s Home Rule Charter is like the City’s constitution; it sets up the rules for City government. If you vote “Yes” on this ballot question, it means you want to change the City’s Charter so that the City’s Board of License and Inspection Review is expanded to have nine members and is allowed to hear and decide cases in groups of three members at a time.