More than two dozen judges and would-be judges ran (and re-ran) to fill benches across our city and state on November 7, 2023. State-level Supreme Court determine Pennsylvania-wide policies and could likely influence PA women’s reproductive rights (including abortion), redistricting (changing who can vote for whom, related to gerrymandering) and gun control, an issue near and dear to thousands of gun violence-impacted Philadelphians.
What PA had to say about that: The PA Supreme Court will look even less like the U.S. Supreme Court.
On the city level, judges vied for spots on the Court of Common Pleas (significant criminal and civil cases, including child custody and juvenile justice) and Philadelphia Municipal Court (where most citizens encounter the judicial system, handles eviction proceedings, small claims and debts up to $12,000).
What Philly had to say: Everyone who sat on a bench … stayed there.
STATE SUPREME COURT
STATE SUPERIOR COURT
PHILADELPHIA COURT OF COMMON PLEAS
PHILADELPHIA MUNICIPAL COURT
STATE SUPREME COURT
On November 7, 2023, PA residents voted to fill the open state Supreme Court following the death last year of Chief Justice Max Baer with Daniel McCaffery. The election will not change partisan control of the Court: Democrats will now hold a 5-2 majority— but it could lay the foundation for an eventual change of partisan power.
In 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court created a new map for congressional districts that drastically changed our congressional partisan makeup. In 2020, the justices upheld Pennsylvania’s law that allows no-excuse mail-in voting. This year, the seven-judge body is weighing whether to overturn a law barring Medicaid from covering abortions — and theirs could be the last word on whether abortions remain legal at all in the state.
HON. DANIEL MCCAFFERY, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Daniel McCaffery serves as a Superior Court Judge, elected to this position in 2019, when he was the top vote-getter. Before becoming a Superior Court judge, he served in the U.S. Army and was an Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia. In 2013, he won a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas seat. Previously, he had run unsuccessfully for PA Attorney General and Philadelphia District Attorney.
McCaffery is the sibling of former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, who stepped down from his role following an investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office regarding transmitting sexually explicit images and videos to state officials using his government email. McCaffery was the PA Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate and won the primary against fellow Superior Court Judge Deborah Kunselman with 60 percent of the vote.
The PA Bar Association has “highly recommended” McCaffery (questionnaire here). In their endorsement, they described him as an “experienced jurist known for his high degree of professionalism, good judicial temperament, and strong work ethic.” He has also received numerous endorsements from unions and advocacy organizations, including Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, and the Laborers’ District Council of Philadelphia.
During a recent interview, he said he would work with all Supreme Court members and build “collegial relationships with the other justices.” Regarding abortion access, McCaffery has repeatedly discussed his disagreement with the Dobbs decision.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court plays a crucial role in the judicial system, serving as an intermediate appellate court that handles criminal and civil appeals in County Courts of Common Pleas. It’s the pivotal juncture in the legal journey before a case can move on to the PA Supreme Court. The Superior Court holds significant sway in the state’s legal landscape due to the constraints on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s capacity to hear all cases.
Panels of three judges typically review cases, and these judges often travel to various locations to hear cases, ensuring accessibility and thorough consideration of legal matters.
There were two open seats for 10-year terms and two retention votes.
JILL BECK, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Beck is a Pittsburgh-based attorney. After graduating from law school, she worked at the nonprofit KidsVoice, where she represented abused children. After KidsVoice, she served as a law clerk under the Honorable Christine Donohue on the Superior Court and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The PA Bar Association highly recommended her (see questionnaire here), and she has been endorsed by the SEIU State Council, United Steelworkers, Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania, Steel City Stonewall Democrats, and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, among many other unions and organizations.
In their endorsement, the PA Bar Association noted that Beck is “intelligent, focused, and displays a temperament exhibiting patience, open-mindedness, tact, and humility. She possesses the highest legal ability, experience, and integrity.”
HON. TIMIKA LANE, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Timika Lane has been a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge since 2013. Before becoming a lawyer, Judge Lane was an educator in Maryland, teaching middle school social studies. Following her passion for justice, she pursued legal studies and served as a law clerk and a certified child advocate specializing in family law. She has also served as a public defender.
She went on to serve as the Chief Legal Counsel for a State Senator and the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania State Senate State Government Committee. While working for the state legislature, she helped draft the legal challenge to the Pennsylvania photo ID law. During her tenure as a Court of Common Pleas Judge, Lane oversaw the human trafficking docket in adult court. Additionally, she presided over domestic and family violence cases involving sexual assault, rape, and grand jury matters.
Lane has described her judicial philosophy as “fair and balanced” and believes that “every person that appears before the court be treated with dignity and respect.” Her appointments and community involvement demonstrate her commitment to criminal justice reform. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court appointed her to the County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee (CAPPAC), and former Governor Wolf appointed her as a Commissioner to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
The Pennsylvania Bar Association “highly recommended” Lane. In their endorsement, they described her as having “community involvement, demonstrating her commitment to public service.” She has endorsements from Planned Parenthood, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, and SEIU Healthcare, among many others.
She previously ran for Superior Court in 2021, losing to Republican Megan Sullivan.
SUPERIOR COURT: RETENTION
In Pennsylvania, all judges, from municipal to Supreme Court, are elected through partisan elections for one 10-year term. After their first 10-year term, citizens vote on whether they should serve another term. They do not face any opponents, and it is extremely rare for a judge to lose a retention vote. PA is one of only 11 states that uses retention votes.
This year, statewide voters can decide to extend the tenures of two incumbent Superior Court judges, Republican Judge Vic Stabile and Democrat Judge Jack Panella.
The PA Bar Association “recommended” both of them for retention.
Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court is the state’s second intermediate appellate court. Tasked with addressing matters concerning state and local governments and regulatory agencies, the court also functions as a trial court for lawsuits involving the Commonwealth. Comprising nine judges that serve ten-year terms, the current composition features four Democrats and five Republicans. Recent noteworthy cases handled by the Commonwealth Court include a ruling declaring Pennsylvania’s school funding system unconstitutional and upholding the legality of the state’s ban on Medicaid covering abortion expenses (Allegheny Reproductive Health Center v. Pennsylvania Department of Human Services).
There was one opening on the Commonwealth Court.
HON. MATT WOLF, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Matt Wolf is currently a supervising judge in the Philadelphia Municipal Court. Before becoming a judge, he spent 25 years as a trial lawyer for Civil rights cases. Before becoming a lawyer, he was a highly decorated 20-year US Army veteran, earning the Bronze Star.
As a lawyer, Wolf represented many women in pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment cases. In addition, he fought on behalf of a group recovery home that was being forced out by their local town through regulatory action.
Wolf assumed the role of Supervising Judge for Municipal Court’s Civil Division, succeeding Judge Bradley K. Moss. This transition occurred in response to Moss facing backlash from tenant rights groups for his handling of landlord-tenant cases. While in this position, he helped to implement the eviction diversion program and was honored for his work by the City of Philadelphia. According to a City Council resolution, “Philadelphia’s Eviction Diversion Program has held more than 1,300 mediations with approximately 90 percent of cases resulting in tenants and landlords reaching an outcome other than eviction.” However, his court has also been responsible for controversial eviction proceedings by private security companies. During a City Council hearing, he said he is working on improving the system with stakeholders.
The PA Bar Association has “recommended” Wolf. In their endorsement, they wrote, “He has been a leader in seeking to clarify, create, and improve rules and processes within the Municipal Court.” He described his judicial philosophy as using justice to address equity — other endorsements: the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, and Unite Here.
PHILADELPHIA COURT OF COMMON PLEAS
Courts of Common Pleas are Pennsylvania trial courts, in 60 judicial districts in the state. These courts deal with significant civil and criminal cases, including those that directly impact citizens’ everyday lives in deciding child custody, family matters and juvenile justice cases.
Philadelphia voters elected 13 (instead of the usual 10) municipal judicial candidates because three judges running for retention retired at the last minute, allowing the Philadelphia Democratic Party to select three candidates to fill “magic seats.” Those three new judges, James Eisenhower, Raj Sandher and Elvin Ross III, were all fast-tracked without running in the primary.
JESSICA BROWN, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Jessica Brown has worked as a public defender at the Department of Labor, where she prosecuted companies that mistreated employees or had unsafe working conditions. Her last job was as a union lawyer with the law firm of Willig, Williams, & Davidson.
The Bar Association “recommended” Brown. Union endorsements include AFSCME District Council 33, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and Philadelphia AFL-CIO. The Working Families Party and Philly NOW, two progressive organizations, also endorse Brown.
HON. KAY YU, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Kay Kyungsun Yu received 7.8 percent of the vote in the May primary and has over three decades of experience working in the public and private sectors. She started her career at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. In 2008, Mayor Nutter appointed Yu to the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. In 2020, she worked as the voter protection director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and the Biden-Harris Coordinated Campaign.
In 2018, Yu received the prestigious Justice Sonia Sotomayor Diversity Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association and Attorney of the Year from the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania. She was sworn in to fill a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas vacancy this June.
The Bar Association has “highly recommended” Yu. Elected officials including state Senators Nikhil Saval and Vincent Hughes have endorsed her, as have unions such as AFSCME and Unite Here.
HON. CHESLEY LIGHTSEY, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Chesley Lightsey is a Temple Law School grad who worked as a Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney, where she specialized in prosecuting crimes against women and children. Before becoming a lawyer, she taught in the Mississippi and Memphis public school systems. During the primary election, she won 6.5 percent of the vote. She was sworn in to fill a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas vacancy in June.
HON. JOHN R. PADOVA, JR., DEMOCRAT: WINNER
John R. Padova, Jr. is a sitting judge appointed by Governor Wolf to serve an open seat on the Court of Common Pleas in 2019 and then again in 2022. This was his first run for a full term.
Before being appointed judge, he spent more than 30 years as a trial lawyer. During the primary, Padova received 7.2 percent of the vote. While on the bench, he promoted diversionary programs for low-level offenders. He is the son of John Padova, Sr., a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, who now serves on senior status.
In an interview with the Chestnut Hill Local before the primary, Padova said that his judicial philosophy is influenced by his view that “you have to remain impartial and neutral. You have to look at arguments from both sides from an objective point of view.”
Padova was among five “highly recommended” candidates by the Philadelphia Bar Association. Among the many organizations and unions who have endorsed him are the building trades, AFL-CIO, the Working Families Party and Liberty City.
HON. NATASHA TAYLOR SMITH, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Natasha Taylor Smith started her career as a public defender after graduating from Temple University Law. As the county solicitor of Montgomery County, she defended the Montgomery County Register of Wills and registered the first marriage certificate for a same-sex couple in Pennsylvania. Most recently, she represented indigent clients in federal court.
In a recent interview, Taylor Smith said that “citizens deserve judges with real-life experience because it is very difficult to empathize with someone if you’ve never had any adversity in your own life.” She received 10.3 percent of the vote in the May primary, making her the top vote-getter. She was sworn in to fill a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas vacancy in June.
Smith was “highly recommended” by the Philadelphia Bar Association and has the endorsements of the PA Working Families Party, IBEW and Philadelphia AFL-CIO.
HON. SAMATHA WILLIAMS, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Samatha Williams worked as the Director of Legislation and Policy for the Office of City Councilmember Curtis Jones, Jr., where she helped craft Jones’s criminal justice policy and established the legislation for the Citizens Police Oversight Commission. She also produced a report from the Special Committee on Criminal Justice Reform that detailed procedures to reduce the City’s prison population.
Before working for Councilmember Jones, Williams was an Assistant District Attorney. She received 8.6 percent of the vote in the May primary and was recently selected to fill a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas vacancy.
Williams was “recommended” by the Philadelphia Bar Association and endorsed by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and Black Clergy of Philadelphia.
HON. JAMES EISENHOWER, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
James Eisenhower was appointed by Pennsylvania Governor Wolf to a four-year term as a judge on the eight-member Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline and served as President Judge until March 2023. He started his career as a White House Fellow with President Bill Clinton on the National Security Council staff. He also was a two-time Democratic candidate for Attorney General of Pennsylvania (2000 and 2004) and served in the administration of former Governor Ed Rendell. Before becoming a judge, Eisenhower worked at Dilworth Paxson.
Eisenhower was “highly recommended” by the Bar Association. He was selected as one of three judges to fill “magic seats.”
No campaign website.
HON. BRIAN MCLAUGHLIN, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Brian McLaughlin was appointed to the Court of Common Pleas by Governor Wolf in July 2022. He is running for his first full 10-year term. He started his career as a Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney and has experience practicing adult and juvenile criminal defense as a partner in a private firm until 2022. He previously ran for judge in 2017.
In a recent interview, McLaughlin described himself as “a person with common sense and a compassionate personality.” He sees his job “as a judge is to keep families together. I treat every child who appears in my courtroom as if they were my own.” During the primary, he received 6.2 percent of the vote.
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Judge McLaughlin.
No campaign website.
HON. TAMIKA WASHINGTON, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Tamika Washington was appointed to fill an empty seat on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in 2022 and is now running to retain that seat. In 2021, she ran and lost a spot on the same court. Washington began her career as a Philadelphia Assistant City Solicitor. She ran her private practice for 12 years, received the First Judicial District Pro-Bono Roll of Honor award for her work on behalf of clients who could not afford an attorney, and volunteered for Philadelphia VIP to help untangle titles to the homes of low-income Philadelphians.
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Washington. The Transportation Workers and the Sprinkler Fitters Local 692 and organizations including Liberty City LGBTQ Democratic Club and the Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance (API-PA) have endorsed her.
DAMARIS GARCIA, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Damaris Garcia has been a civil litigator for more than 20 years. She received her law degree from Duquesne University and currently works as a trial attorney at Haddix & Associates. Garcia is active with the Hispanic Bar Association.
Garcia was “recommended” by the Bar Association and has received the endorsements of AFSMCE DC33 and DC47, among others.
ELVIN PETER ROSS III, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Elvin Peter Ross III is the founding member of the Legis Group LLC. Before that, he worked at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP in their business and finance practice group. Ross received his undergraduate degree at the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania, a master’s in education from Drexel University, and his law degree from Texas Southern University. Before becoming a lawyer, he worked at PECO and as a teacher within the Philadelphia School District. Ross is a founding member and former Philadelphia Bar Association’s Advancing Civics Education Committee co-chair.
He was selected as one of three judges to fill “magic seats“ in November. The Philadelphia Bar Association has not rated Ross.
No campaign website.
RAJINDERPAL SANDHER, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Rajinderpal Sandher’s Facebook page says he is a lawyer at Sandher & Lehman and graduated from Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He was selected as one of three judges to fill “magic seats” in November.
The Philadelphia Bar Association rated Sandher “not recommended.”
No campaign website.
CAROLINE TURNER, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Caroline Turner moved to the U.S. in 1998, earning a Master’s in bioethics from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from Temple School of Law. Turner has been a public defender in New Jersey and active in progressive politics, volunteering at CORA’s Housing Eviction Diversion Program. She believes in reforming pretrial detention and probation reform. In a recent interview, Turner said, “Judges can serve as facilitators of healing and can model restorative justice in their dealings with people who come before them.”
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Turner.
COURT OF COMMON PLEAS: RETENTION
All Common Pleas candidates running for retention won their seats. (Winners include Ann Marie Coyle, who made news for receiving an virtually unprecedented “not recommended” rating from the Philadelphia Bar Association.)
HON. JACQUELINE ALLEN: WINNER
Judge Jacqueline Allen was elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 1994. In 2016, she became the first African American and first woman to serve as Administrative Judge of the Trial Division, making her the top judge of the system’s busiest and most prestigious criminal and civil courtrooms,” according to The Inquirer. Allen served in that role until 2019, when Judge Lisette Shirdan-Harris took over. Prior to her judgeship, she was a law clerk for Hon. Julian King in the Civil Trial Division and a litigator for SEPTA, Conrail and Unisys.
Allen is known for leading the city’s effort to lighten the sentences of more than 300 minors who were serving life in prison, approving the first pay increase in 20 years for public defenders, and, in August, ruling that the Philadelphia school board did not violate any laws by restricting the number of speakers or limiting the time they could speak at board meetings.
Despite having openly considered retiring at year’s end, Allen remains on the ballot.
The Philadelphia Bar Association bestowed their Sandra Day O’Connor award on Allen in 2018 and “recommended” her for retention.
HON. GIOVANNI CAMPBELL: WINNER
Judge Giovanni Campbell has served on the Court of Common Pleas since 2014. Born in Panama, raised from age 12 in New York, Campbell came to Philly through Temple Law. He now serves on the Criminal Trial Division – Major Trials, ruling on serious, non-homicide felony cases from Northwest Philadelphia.
Prior to his judgeship, Campbell was a solo practitioner. He’s said he purposely located his office in underserved communities, and litigated criminal defense at the state and federal levels. In a 2011 questionnaire for The Inquirer, he cited extensive pro bono legal and educational work, including for Temple’s Legal Education and Participation Project, the PA Bar Association’s Pro Bono Project, Volunteers for the Indigent Program (VIP) and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia. He is a practicing Quaker who recently sentenced Philadelphia Police Officer Patrick Heron to 15 to 40 years for abusing and assaulting dozens of women and girls.
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Campbell for retention.
HON. ANN MARIE COYLE: WINNER
Judge Ann Marie Coyle, first elected to the Court of Common Pleas in November 2013, is running for another 10-year term. Prior to her judgeship, Coyle spent 16 years as an Assistant District Attorney, including as Assistant Chief of the Major Trials Unit.
Controversial decisions have marked the judge’s time on the bench. Coyle refused to release inmates from jail at the height of the Covid pandemic and imposed the harshest sentences for individuals who violate probation. The Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board recently suggested voters reject her retention vote.
The Philadelphia Bar Association issued its first “not recommended” rating for retention in six years for Judge Coyle.
HON. RAMY I. DJERASSI: WINNER
Judge Ramy I. Djerassi was elected in 2003 and reelected in 2013. He has presided over Family Court (2003-2006), Criminal Court (2006-2013), Civil Court (2013-2015) and Commerce Court (2015-present). Prior to his judgeship, Djerssi spent 21 years as an attorney in private practice and served as an assistant DA.
He considers himself a criminal justice reformer and helped found the Philadelphia Network of Care for Prisoner Reentry) and The Accountability Project, to assist recently incarcerated people with life, including addiction treatment, on the outside. In July 2023, The Inquirer outed Djerassi as one of 28 Common Pleas judges who are also landlords — and said the city had long pursued his rental property company for unpaid real estate taxes, gas bills, trash violations and other L&I citations. (He owns and rents close to 40 units in five buildings.)
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Djerassi for retention.
HON. JOSEPH L. FERNANDES: WINNER
Judge Joseph L. Fernandes has served on the Court of Common Pleas since 2014. He currently presides over Philadelphia Family Court. In the past, he has reversed rulings of his colleague Judge Lyris Younge, who was subsequently suspended and removed from Family Court for unethical and unconstitutional conduct.
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Fernandes for retention.
HON. HOLLY FORD: WINNER
HON. TIMIKA LANE: WINNER
Judge Timika Lane was elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 2013 and is currently running for both retention and for a new role on Superior Court. Should she not win election to the higher judicial body, she’ll likely return to Common Pleas. (See above for a fuller description of her background and expertise.)
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Lane for retention.
HON. JOSEPH SCOTT O’KEEFE: WINNER
Judge J. Scott O’Keefe was appointed to a “magic seat” on the Court of Common Pleas in 2013 and assumed the role in 2014. According to his campaign website, he’s a former police officer who spent 33 years as trial attorney.
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” O’Keefe for retention.
HON. PAULA PATRICK: WINNER
Judge Paula Patrick was elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 2003, where she primarily handles business-related cases. One such case — ordering the removal of the plywood box from the Christopher Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza — made waves not just for the decision alone. It also resulted in The Daily Beast referring to her as “QAnon-linked.” She responded by suing the media outlet in federal court, and losing. and a lawsuit Patrick brought in federal court.
Prior to serving on the bench, she was in private practice.
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Patrick for retention.
HON. SIERRA THOMAS STREET: WINNER
Judge Sierra Thomas Street was elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 2013. She took office in 2014, serving in the Major Trial Program in the Criminal Division, and, more recently, in the Civil Division, presiding over bench and jury felony trials of people charged of attempted murder, rape, robbery and family violence.
She is the ex-wife of state Sen. Sharif Street. In 2021, she ran and lost a race for Commonwealth Court. Prior to her judgeship, she was in private practice.
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Thomas Street for retention.
HON. NINA WRIGHT PADILLA: WINNER
Judge Nina Wright Padilla has been a member of the Court of Common Pleas since 2004. In 2021, she became the first Black supervising judge of the Commerce Court, presiding over business disputes: actions relating to trade secrets, non-compete agreements, purchases or sales of businesses and class actions. Her previous court assignments included the Motions and Statutory Appeals Program of the Civil Trial Division, the Criminal Trial Division, and the Domestic Relations Branch of Family Court.
That same year, Wright Padilla was elected chair of the 12-member Judicial Conduct Board of PA.
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” Wright Padilla for retention.
PHILADELPHIA MUNICIPAL COURT
The Municipal Court is the lowest level of the judicial system, and it is where most individuals first encounter the court system. This court handles eviction proceedings, small claims, and debts up to $12,000. There were two open spots on Philadelphia’s Municipal Court.
COLLEEN MCINTYRE OSBORNE, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Colleen McIntyre Osborne attended Drexel University Law School and has more than a decade of experience as a Philadelphia and Montgomery County prosecutor. She has served as a JAG lawyer in the U.S Army Reserve. After leaving the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, she worked for the School District of Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Bar Association “recommended” McIntyre Osborne. The Democratic Party, IBEW 98 and National Organization For Women have endorsed her.
BARBARA THOMSON, DEMOCRAT: WINNER
Barbara Thomson began her career at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, specializing in criminal justice reform. She has worked for New York City Transit and said she has dedicated her career to helping reform the criminal justice system.
She was “recommended” by the Philadelphia Bar Association and endorsed by the Democratic Party and several open wards.
PHILADELPHIA MUNICIPAL COURT: RETENTION
All Municipal Pleas candidates running for retention won their seats.
HON. MARISSA BRUMBACH: WINNER
Judge Marissa Brumbach assumed office in 2018 and is running for retention. Before becoming a judge, she spent 20 years in private practice and clerked for Judge.Amanda Cooperman. In 2022, an ethics board found that Brumbach had tried to rule on traffic citations early because she was leaving for Florida.
HON. WILLIAM A. MEEHAN JR. (not pictured): WINNER
Judge William A. Meehan, Jr. has served on the court by election since 1994. His Municipal Court purview has included Drug Treatment Court and Driving Under the Influence Court. He currently chairs, co-chairs and is a member of several committees pertaining to judicial rules and procedures. Prior to the bench, he was in private practice, served as an assistant DA in Delaware County, and as deputy DA for the Commonwealth.
Last year, Meehan dismissed charges against two PPD officers (and brothers) accused of falsely accusing, chasing and beating a man with Asberger’s syndrome. Meehan had previously dismissed charges against SWAT officer Richard P. Nicoletti, who pepper sprayed protesters on the Vine Street Expressway in 2020, and two officers separately accused of tampering with evidence.
The Philadelphia Bar association “recommended” Meehan for retention.
HON. BRADLEY MOSS: WINNER
Judge Bradley Moss first joined the Municipal Court in 2004. He spent 13 years as Supervising Judge for the court’s Civil Division, where the bulk of his cases involved landlord-tenant disputes. According to WHYY, Moss has sided with plaintiffs (landlords) in 78 percent of cases.
Moss co-chairs the court’s Judicial Conference and Education Committee and is a member of the Minor Court Rules Committee. Prior to his judgeship, Moss was the partner of two law Philadelphia firms.
The Philadelphia Bar association “recommended” Moss for retention.
HON. DAVID C. SHUTER: WINNER
Judge David C. Shuter, first elected to the bench in 2005, is running for retention. Controversy around his reelection stems from his marriage to Marisa Shuter, an attorney whom the Municipal Court appointed to act as the city’s Landlord Tenant Officer, a lucrative and controversial role that employs armed deputies to collect tenant rents and related fees for landlords and officiating over evictions. Meanwhile, Judge Shuter has continued to preside over eviction cases. When he rules in favor of landlords, his wife stands to benefit financially.
HON. KAREN SIMMONS: WINNER
Judge Karen Simmons joined Municipal Court in 2006. In 2018, while running to lead the court as president judge, she received a racist letter that set off a discussion about a culture of inequity and racism in the courts. In 2020, Simmons received the Louis H. Pollak Award for public service from the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia.
Last year, she dismissed third-degree murder charges for the alleged drunk driver who struck and killed two state troopers and a pedestrian on I-95. Prior to her judgeship, Simmons was an assistant public defender and assistant city solicitor focusing on labor and employment. She was also chief legal counsel for the PPD.
The Philadelphia Bar association “recommended” Simmons for retention.
HON. MARVIN L. WILLIAMS: WINNER
Judge Marvin L. Williams has served on the Municipal Court since 2018. According to a questionnaire Williams completed for The Inquirer, in addition to his law background, he is a PA-licensed CPA and forensic accountant, former Philadelphia Deputy Sheriff Officer and Air Force veteran.
In 2016, Williams presided over bail for Rysheed Jordan, a basketball phenom who went to prison after pleading guilty for wounding someone during a botched robbery.
The Philadelphia Bar association “recommended” Williams for retention.
HON. MATT WOLF: WINNER, although will cede seat to join PA Commonwealth Court
Judge Matt Wolf assumed his place on the Municipal Court in 2018, where he is currently the Supervising Civil Judge, presiding over civil and criminal cases, including a preponderance of landlord-tenant disputes.
Wolf is running for both retention and for a new role on the statewide Commonwealth Court. Should he not win election to the higher judicial body, he will likely return to Municipal Court. (See above for a fuller description of Wolf’s background and expertise.)
The Philadelphia Bar Association has “recommended” Wolf for retention.
Every Voice, Every Vote is a collaborative project managed by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, the Wyncote Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, among others. To learn more about the project and view a full list of supporters, visit www.everyvoice-everyvote.org. Editorial content is created independently of the project’s donors.
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