Philadelphia Judicial Elections

Citizen groups meet with Bar Association to discuss judicial elections

I have been a committeeperson for almost three decades—a job I enjoy EXCEPT for the job of recommending judicial candidates to my neighbors. It is extraordinarily difficult to get reliable information about judicial candidates and I’m uncomfortable making recommendations when I don’t feel I can personally vouch for these endorsements.

Last week a group of civic/advocacy organizations which endorse candidates met with representatives of the Bar Association to express our dismay at their endorsement of recently elected Common Please Judge Thomas Nocella, who has a well-documented history of ethics violations and other dubious practices. The officers of the Bar assured us they were making changes to their process which should prevent another such occurrence.

The Nocella appointment was unusual due to the last-minute resignation by a sitting judge, which allowed the Democratic Party to make an election eve appointment. Because the Bar Association recommendation is good for three years, Nocella could make his last-minute entrance into the race as a recommended candidate. Well, a lot happened in those three years, including citations by the Ethics Commission. Also, the last minute appointment of Nocella was particularly egregious as he had been previously rejected by the voters three times.

My Votes in the Judicial Elections

I thought I would tell people which Judges I am voting for. First, here is how I came to my decisions. I start with only those recommended by the Bar Association. Second, I looked at feedback from the National Lawyers Guild. Third, I looked at questionnaires, such as those from Liberty City. Fourth, I asked people I trust and who have some knowledge about it. And fifth, I looked at the endorsements of groups such as Liberty City and Philly for Change. (And thank you Thomas Taylor! I used this list quite a bit.)

These are my picks for Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Court.

For Common Pleas, you can vote for seven. I will likely vote for five, but may add in one more. I know there are many good choices out there. But, here are mine...

I will first be voting for three judges who were appointed by Gov. Rendell, and must now stand for election. I would really recommend voting for all of these:

Dan Anders- Judge Anders is the first second out LGBT Judge, starting to end one of the last remaining ways our judicial body remains non-diverse. He comes across as a very smart guy, and comments from the NLG survey say things like this:

  • already pushing his own ideas in the court system despite short tenure. A keeper.
  • experience has demonstrated competence and commitment to the job, very bright, caring, thoughful, prepared, respectful of clients and counsel
  • Judge Anders is extremely knowledgeable and fair. He gives all parties opportunity to speak and he listens to argument. He is open-minded and obviously willing to consider all sides.
  • Sits on bench now by appointment, great judicial temperment, his decisions are well reasoned

I sort of suspect that Judge Anders will be appointed to a federal seat at some point. Let’s keep him as a CP judge as long as we can.

Angeles Roca- Judge Roca is a really impressive person with a really impressive story. While raising a family, she put herself through college, going part-time for a number of years. Then, with the support of her family, she followed that up by going to Villanova Law School. When she graduated, she opened up a family practice on Girard Ave. She has a lot of experience with Family Law, which we really need more of on the Court. She is reputed to be good already, she is endorsed by just about everyone, and through word of mouth, everyone I know seems to be supporting her.

Joyce Eubanks- Judge Eubanks spent 20 plus years as a public interest law, as a Public Defender. I am pretty biased towards people who spend whole careers in public interest law. Plus, those I know who worked with her came away very impressed. Good civil rights lawyers in Philly support her. She is recommended by everyone. The NLG comments are very impressive. Plus, she smacks down people on blogs. What else is there?

I will then be voting for the following two candidates:

Greg Coleman
- First, to state this up front, one of the reasons why I am voting for Mr. Coleman is that my old man got to know him well on the 2007 campaign trail, and was impressed by him. And he is from Germantown, so, come on, what is not to like? OK, more seriously, he is endorsed by most of the progressive groups running, he is deeply involved in his community, and he has a background in mental health law, which would be a real boost for our Court.

Diane Thompson- Like Judge Roca, Diane Thompson is an impressive woman with an impressive personal story, who put herself through law school later in life. Prior to going back to school, she was a public school teacher, and worked in the Courts. She is deeply involved in her community (Olney), she is endorsed by almost every progressive group, and she has impressed me both in her questionnaires and her temperament when I have met her. Again, she just strikes me as an impressive woman who would understand the power imbalance that we often see in Philadelphia courts.

I might vote for one more.

And quickly, for Municipal Court, I will be voting for the following three:

Dawn Segal- I think she is an impressive candidate. She will be one of the only out women on the bench. She was President of the board of Women Organized Against Rape. Member of Congregation Mishkan Shalom, but, I won’t hold that against her (I kid, I kid). She is endorsed by just about every progressive group.

Christine Adair- She is a former defender, and the NLG surveys call her ‘brilliant,’ ‘very bright,’ ‘thoughtful,' and 'smart, dedicated, even handed and fair.’ Sounds pretty good to me.

Charles Hayden
- He has a very varied, extensive background, including working as a Defender, and for the EPA. Hayden is another one of those who, through word of mouth, is supported by a lot of people who I really respect.

(That said, Mr. Hayden went to Carleton College, in Northfield, Minnesota. Anyone who goes to Carleton probably could have gone to Macalester. Making such a poor decision might make me vote against him. Again, I kid!)

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