There's a reason the Philadelphia Democratic Party gets away with shaking down judicial candidates; it’s time to start connectin

There are real drawbacks to living in a one-party town. Recently the Philadelphia Inquirer reported:

The city's Democratic Party organization invited 27 Philadelphia judges to a buffet breakfast this week and asked them to pay $10,000 each to assure party support when they face yes-or-no retention votes in November, according to judges who attended.
The figure is double what the party asked from sitting judges two years ago.
And the request was reportedly delivered with a warning from the party treasurer, former State Rep. Frank Oliver, that Democratic ward leaders would "cut" - withhold support from - judges who failed to pay, according to several witnesses.

Democratic Party Chair Bob Brady, who has a real talent for plausible deniability, left the room when the party treasurer made his pitch.

I don't know what was said at the meeting, because I wasn't there," Brady said Thursday. …. The Democratic Party, for the 25 years I've been there, has never endorsed or unendorsed anybody for monetary reasons. . . . A good-faith effort, that's what the party asks."

Of course nobody believes this. A Daily News editorial asks: "Dem Party courtship of judicial candidates a stickup?" Anyone who pays attention to judicial elections in Philadelphia knows the process is riddled with corruption. But our local press doesn’t connect the dots.

Reporters who are well aware of the corruption documented by both the Inquirer and Daily News articles have not wanted to report about the undemocratic practices in the Philadelphia Democratic party--to cite a recent example, the failure to seat duly elected committeeperson Tracey Gordon.(City Paper's Holly Otterbein who broke the Tracey Gordon story is a notable exception.)

Bob Brady and the Democratic machine can use judicial elections as a money-maker because he has for the most part a docile group of ward leaders and committeepeople who in many cases have political patronage jobs. (I’ve often wondered why there is no investigative reporting of what are often referred to as “sponsored" positions--city jobs doled out by ward leaders. Can an economically struggling city really afford this?)

You can run this kind of judicial shakedown operation only if you are confident that enough committeepeople and ward leaders will go along. Tracey Gordon did not intend to be a docile committeeperson who was there just to take orders. She was unhappy about the lack of voter participation in her neighborhood and ran to increase turn-out in her division. This may not be what some ward leaders want.

But energetic committeepeople who want to educate voters and increase voter participation are just what we need. We’ll never clean up Philadelphia’s political mess until more civic-minded people run for these slots. And how many of these folks will choose to run if they know that the ward leaders are allowed to ignore the will of the voters and to refuse to seat duly elected committeepeople they may not be able to control?

If we had more independent committee committeepeople and ward leaders, the kind of judicial shake-down operation reported by the Inquirer and Daily News would be a whole lot harder to pull-off.

Judges up for Retention Vote

Shake downs can occur if the average voter doesn't become informed.

So far the only up to date info seems to be from the Philadelphia Bar Association,

Out of date information,



Please someone give a history of each judge.
I only know details on Judge Washington

I have given up

My recommendation is to vote NO on retention for the entire slate of candidates for the Court of Common Pleas, Municipal Court and Traffic Court.

There is just no way to make an informed decision, as a voter. There just isn't. Without any information I am reduced to box/bullet-voting (skip races), or to just vote anti-incumbent but not vote for a challenger if the question offers that selection.

I read enough stories in the press every single day so I can get somewhat if a small SLICE of a picture about the judicial field.

But Christ on Crackers... look at the ballot for my ward:

Look on the right side of the ballot. How can you possibly expect people with a 7th grade education, much less doctoral degrees, to make an informed decision? You're asking WAY too much of the voting public.

The modification of our judicial retention system that requires political appointments, confirmations to get in and a legal minimum set of requirements that must be met in order to submit a candidacy, then public voting to retain after the jurist has completed their term, seems the better option out of all the selections of evils.


Given that the public is clueless and this IS a one-party town, and most Philadelphians always vote to retain no-matter-what; what difference does it make if nobody at the sales pitch writes a $10,000 check?

Once you are seated on the bench, the only thing you have to worry about is the Democratic primary, not the general election.

Voting "NO" is not the answer

EastChestnut your suggestion for a total no vote would make matters far worse,
Voting “no” on all retentions is a strong statement against any judge who stands out for what ever reason.

Many years ago then Mayor Rizzo campaigned for a “no” vote on Judge Lisa Richette, and everyone she helped came to her defense,
but usually judges that stand out get less votes on retention, so unless a Vote 'No' campaign
knocks out every judge, the lesson would be judges should just try to sink into the woodwork

The Philly bar associating lists unqualified judges

The National Lawyers Guild has a 2009 survey that is hard to follow,
It needs updating
However the top of the list is clearly Judge Craig M. Washington, and the most critical comments were often against Judges rated unsatisfactory by the National Bar Association.

The following is their 2009 comments on Judge Craig Washington,
68.4% highly recommend, 15.8% recommend, 5.3% oppose 10.5% have no opinion
· Very fair and thoughtful. Inefficient on the bench, but that's my only criticism
· This Judge is thoughtful, deliberate and fair.
· Fair and thoughtful.
C on t i n u e s @ above pdf.

My computer is down and the laptop I'm using stopped linking to my computer. Without a written copy in front of me it could be hard to condense the complicated National Lawyer's guild survey. I hope someone else posts such a list.

I would especially like someone to check whether some of the judges links as unqualified by the Bar Association are nevertheless liked by some Guild members.

Don't forget mentioned earlier on Young Philly Politics there are good candidates for Sheriff and Commonwealth Court. Someone should point out the other good candidates, Kathy was a legal aid attorney, and Cheri a homeless advocate,

Let's simplify this

The judges that refuse to pay up may get perhaps 30% less yes votes. Complaining about the culture of bribe politics EastChestnut may mean all judges get 30% less yes votes on retention.

The lesson learned will be always pay the bribe and never complain or EastChestnut may make matters worse.

Richard Kane

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Syndicate content