My Responses to the Pittsburgh DSA Candidate Questionnaire

I am really excited to share these questions and responses with the community! There are a lot of misconceptions out there about DSA, but I found these questions, as well as the members of Pittsburgh DSA, to be highly informed and full of positive energy.

Make no mistake, these were by no means cookie-cutter questions. They were quite challenging. Luckily I love a challenge, and I had a great time preparing my answers.

You will notice a number of legal citations throughout. I take this approach for two reasons. First, some of the questions pertain to issues that some may consider controversial in nature. Therefore, as a judicial candidate it is important for the law to be my starting point, and for my interpretation of the law to be the basis of my responses. Second, cases are excellent sources of eloquent, concise quotes that speak to the core of the democratic legal principles that govern our free society.

To me, some of these quotes are breathtaking in the way that they poignantly convey our highest ideals. We as a society have a tendency to become disenchanted with the judicial system when we see injustices occur in the administration of the law. This can cause us to forget how great our highest ideals are. I believe that reading cases where these ideals are plainly stated and thoroughly analyzed, gives us a good reminder.

  1. Do you identify as a democratic socialist? If so, what does being a socialist mean to you?

I recently was gifted the book, “The Rich Get Richer and The Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Class, and Criminal Justice.” The premise of this book speaks to the sentiment that is held by a majority of Americans, as described by a recent American Bar Association report, that “there are two systems of justice in the United States — one for the rich and powerful, and one for everyone else.” And this sentiment speaks to the reality that 80% of the legal needs of the poor and 60% of the legal needs of middle-income individuals and families go unmet. Moreover, 80% of criminal defendants in the United States require indigent defense services (i.e. a public defender), while public funding for public defender services makes up only 20% of overall spending on legal services for criminal defendants; in other words, poor criminal defendants are guaranteed the right to an adequate defense, but remain grossly underrepresented in comparison to their middle income and wealthy counterparts. Contributing to this inequity is the disproportionate and selective enforcement of the so-called “War on Drugs” in poor communities of color, as described by Michelle Alexander in her groundbreaking New York Times Bestseller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

There are countless other examples of these disparities within the justice system. I believe that they are symptoms of a justice system that fundamentally is inequitable as to class and race.

I say all of this to say that while I have not identified as a democratic socialist in the past, I would be honored to have the support of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. To me, being a socialist means acknowledging, confronting, and demanding reparations for social inequalities in no uncertain terms. I have dedicated my life and career as an organizer and attorney to doing just this. I am an innocence defense and civil rights attorney and my background is in labor and community organizing. A large portion of my law practice also consists of representing consumers in federal bankruptcy court, which has translated into countless hours of protecting my clients from the many unsettling realities of the corporate finance industry.

2. What do you believe is the role of the judiciary in general?

It is axiomatic that the judiciary is the independent, nonpolitical branch of the government that secures and maintains the Rule of Law. As Chief Justice Marshall famously wrote in the landmark decision of Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803), “It is emphatically the province and duty of the Judicial Department [the judicial branch] to say what the law is.” (emphasis added) In other words, no Executive Order, legislative enactment, or other law made by a political branch of the government is insulated from the legal principles of the Constitution, as interpreted and applied by the judiciary.

For example, the so-called “travel ban” recently was enjoined by a court in light of its Constitutional deficiencies. Thus, the judiciary is something of a last line of defense when it comes to protecting American democracy from within. At the same time, the judiciary is not perfectly insulated from politics and ideology. In the pursuit of truth and fairness, judges have an ethical and moral obligation to follow the law, as well as their own consciences. The latter derives in part from the powers of a court sitting in “equity” to “remedy what is imperfect” and “correct what is wrong” for the purpose of protecting individuals from injuries.

By way of further example, I recently was involved in a well-publicized case where an elderly same-sex couple entered into an adoptive relationship, because before the recent Supreme Court decision in Obergefell, this was the only option available to them in terms of obtaining legal recognition of their familial relationship. After the decision in Obergefell, the couple sought to marry but first had to nullify their adoption. When the trial court denied their petition to annul their adoption, thereby effectively denying their right to marry, we appealed on Constitutional as well as equitable grounds. The appellate court found in favor of our clients, reasoning that although the Pennsylvania Adoption Act does not expressly provide for the annulment of adoptions, equity allows it when doing so is in the best interests of adoptee — particularly where fundamental constitutional rights are at issue.

3. What do you believe is the role of a district magistrate in particular?

In the influential Pennsylvania Supreme Court case Commonwealth v. Edmunds, 586 A.2d 887 (Pa. 1991), the Court assessed the role a of a District Magistrate as follows:

Would the District Justice act as nothing more than an adjunct of the police department, there would be no opportunity for review of the warrant prior to its issuance, and hence, a search warrant would be nothing more than the police’s own determination of whether probable cause exists… It must be remembered that a District Justice is not a member of the executive branch — the police — but a member of the judiciary. By falling within the judicial branch of government, the District Justice is thus charged with the responsibility of being the disinterested arbiter of disputes and is charged further with acting as the bulwark between the police and the rights of citizens.

Id. at 905. This is an authoritative assessment with which I cannot disagree. I believe that the District Justice must be particularly vigilant in its role as a bulwark because, “[m]any deep and abiding constitutional problems are encountered primarily at a level of ‘low visibility’ in the criminal process… [and the Constitution does not] contemplate[] that people deprived of constitutional rights at this level should be left utterly remediless and defenseless against repetitions of unconstitutional conduct.” Sibron v. New York, 392 U.S. 40, 52–3 (1968).

I would add that, as gatekeepers of the court system that operate at such a “low visibility” or community-level, District Justices are in a unique position to identify and address the root causes of disputes, enable parties’ participation in diversionary programs, and amicably resolve disputes before they escalate beyond the possibility that the parties can reach an amicable resolution.

4. What do you believe is the role of bail in criminal proceedings? What changes, if any, would you like to see made to the bail system in Allegheny County?

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has consistently held:

The fundamental purpose of bail is to secure the presence of the accused at trial. However, in the absence of evidence that the accused will flee, certain basic principles of our criminal law indicate bail should be granted, these are: (a) the importance of the presumption of innocence; (b) the distaste for the imposition of sanctions prior to trial and conviction; and (c) the desire to give the accused the maximum opportunity to prepare his defense.”

Commonwealth v. Truesdale, 449 Pa. 325, 335–36 (1972). Thus, mitigating “flight risk” is the primary role of bail. Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 234 identifies ten factors that courts must consider when assessing a defendant’s flight risk. These factors also assist courts in determining what conditions, if any, may be appropriate to impose in order to enable release from confinement without creating a substantial risk of flight or danger to the community. Taken together, the presumption in favor of bail and the extent of Rule 234’s factors demonstrate that courts should consider it a last resort to deny bail or to impose high money bail.

Unfortunately, it would seem that certain facets of the bail system in Allegheny County have adopted a reversal of this presumption, and this has led to over incarceration and over crowding in Allegheny County Jail (ACJ). A recent study by the Institute of Politics at the University of Pittsburgh found that 81% of ACJ inmates are unconvicted pretrial detainees, compared to 62% nationally. The report placed the blame for this problem squarely on District Justices:

District judges and others with the authority to release defendants to await trial in the community are increasingly choosing to detain people, including those who pose little risk to public safety and/or are likely to appear in court… In recent years tools have been developed to better predict the [bail risks] that individuals pose… Despite the benefits of such tools, district judges have not used them consistently. In 2016, within Allegheny County, only 63 percent of all pretrial recommendations [that were] made using the tool were followed in the initial decision by a district judge.

Therefore, to begin with I would recommend two things. First, I would recommend petitioning the courts of Allegheny County to change their local rules of criminal procedure, to provide that district justices and other bail authorities must state the pretrial recommendations made by the risk assessment tool on the record, and must also state their reasons for not following the tool’s recommendations. Second, I would recommend additional funding for indigent defense services, to ensure universal legal representation at Preliminary Arraignments — the first proceeding in a criminal case, where bail initially is set by a District Justice. The 6th Amendment’s right to counsel does not extend to Preliminary Arraignments, and the Office of the Public Defender of Allegheny County currently does not cover formal arraignments. Thus, more often than not criminal defendants are not represented at their initial bail hearing. Steps must be taken to go beyond the minimum requirements of the of the 6th Amendment — especially in Pennsylvania, which is the only state that does not provide any state funding for indigent defense services.

I would only add that the factors at play in bail decisions are more complex and go beyond risk of flight and danger to the community. Implicit bias on the part of a District Justice can play a role. Outside interests such as those of law enforcement and the money bail industry potentially can influence bail decisions. For example, the Pitt report mentioned above also recommended that the Office of the District Attorney of Allegheny County curb the practice of “overcharging,” or charging more serious crimes in order to gain plea leverage over the accused. Money bail can play a similar role — law enforcement can gain leverage over the accused through the imposition of money bail. The accused is faced with the choice of accepting a plea offer or going to jail because he or she cannot pay the money bail that has been set; the accused is faced with the choice of accepting guilt for a crime that he or she may not have committed, or losing their job or custody of their children while in jail. There have been well-documented cases of this problem outside of Allegheny County, such as the circumstances described in the 2015 New York Times Magazine article Bail Trap, and the circumstances surrounding the current class action lawsuit in Harris County, Texas.

5. What factors do you consider when determining probable cause for an arrest or search warrant?

Case law provides that probable cause exists when:

The facts and circumstances which are within the knowledge of the officer at the time of the arrest and of which he has reasonably trustworthy information, are sufficient to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that the suspect has committed or is committing a crime. The question we ask is not whether the officer’s belief was correct or more likely true than false. Rather, we require only a probability and not a prima facie showing, of criminal activity. In determining whether probable cause exists, we apply a totality of the circumstances test.

Commonwealth v. Thompson, 985 A.2d 928 (Pa. 2009) (internal citations omitted). Thus, the factors that must be considered are: (a) the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time of his or her observations; (b) the trustworthiness of the information that the officer was acting on at the time of his or her observations; (c) the level of caution that the officer has exercised in his or her investigation, which is indicative of whether or not the officer acted reasonably at the time of his or her observations; (d) the type of investigation that is being conducted; (e) the elements of the crime that is suspected or alleged; and (f) the larger context or the “totality of the circumstances.”

By way of a general example, in the context of an application for a search warrant or an application for an arrest warrant that arises from a drug task force or distribution investigation, it is particularly important to consider factors (b) through (f). To advance these investigations officers oftentimes rely on untrustworthy, self-serving, and vulnerable confidential informants that are under the influence or severely addicted. Officers offer informants incentives such as reduced charges or physical protection, and informants oftentimes fabricate information to obtain these incentives.

Moreover, the incentives that officers are offered in this investigatory context, such as career advancement, federal funding, and the financial benefits of asset forfeitures, could lead officers to adopt agendas and biases that affect the reliability of their observations. Similarly, in my experience I have observed that many of the officers that conduct these investigations are under a great deal of stress, and this can affect the reliability of their observations as well. For example, these investigations oftentimes are conducted by white officers in communities of color, with which the officers are unfamiliar outside of their official capacities.

This example illustrates an important reality: although probable cause is a fairly low evidentiary threshold, when an officer submits an application for an arrest warrant or an application for a search warrant, the affidavit of probable cause contained in that application must be scrutinized carefully. When the officer submits the application, he or she is asking the judge for permission to set aside a citizen’s fundamental right to liberty or to privacy, in light of a certain justification. Thus, the basis of the officer’s justification must be sound, grounded in reasonableness, and largely free from untrustworthy information or undue influence.

6. Do you believe our communities are over-policed, under-policed, or policed correctly? Why?

I believe that fundamentally, our society over relies on policing and incarceration to solve our social problems. The exponential growth of the prison population; the exponential growth of the number of state and federal criminal offenses; the rise of the private prison industry; mandatory minimum sentences and “three strikes” laws; the militarization of the police. These are all evidence of this over reliance. When we ask whether “our communities” are over policed, I would say that it depends on what we consider our communities to be. The New Jim Crow documents with great specificity the selective enforcement of drug crimes in poor communities of color, rather than on college campuses, for example.

7. What do you believe is the purpose of incarceration?

I believe that the primary purpose of incarceration is the protection of the community. When we incarcerate a person, we may point to punishment, rehabilitation and retribution, but fundamentally we are protecting the community at large from an individual we deem dangerous. At the same time, when we deprive an individual’s liberty for the purpose of protecting ourselves or the community at large, I believe we must accept responsibility for that individual, and for ensuring that he or she will one day be able to safely return to free society.

I should add that while a sentence of incarceration may be required by the law and leave the sentencing judge with no discretion to fashion a different sentence, this does not mean that a particular sentence or mandatory sentencing scheme cannot be challenged or invalidated as unconstitutional (i.e. capital punishment or mandatory minimum sentences) See Alleyne v. United States, 570 U.S. ___ (2013). I should also note that a sentence of incarceration rarely is an issue that District Justices must address, because summary trials are the only instances in which District Justices impose sentences, and relatively few summary offenses require or even allow sentences of incarceration.

8. Do you believe punitive municipal violations are over-enforced, under-enforced, or properly enforced?

I recently read the book Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship. It chronicles a study that was conducted in the Oklahoma City-area, which aimed at identifying the cause of racial disparities in the number of traffic stops. The study found that: (a) there are two types of traffic stops — traffic safety stops and investigatory stops; (b) traffic safety stops are initiated in response to more serious moving violations (such as driving over the speed limit by more that 7-miles per hour and reckless driving), for the purpose of protecting the safety of motorists; (c) investigatory stops are initiated in response to minor, usually non-moving violations (such as expired vehicle expiration), for the purpose of using the minor violation as a pretext for initiating an investigation into criminal activity; and (d) investigatory stops are the cause of racial disparities in the number of traffic stops.

Pulled Over also discusses the rise of “broken windows” theory policing, which encourages police to strictly enforce minor violations such as loitering, disorderly conduct and graffiti, for the purpose of deterring more serious crime. Investigatory stops and certain War on Drugs investigatory techniques, such as arresting large numbers of ordinary drug users and low-level dealers, are examples of broken windows theory policing. Thus, it is clear that punitive municipal violations are over-enforced because the over-enforcement of these violations is central to current policing strategies and practices.

I believe that these practices have contributed greatly to the aforementioned over reliance on policing and incarceration to solve social problems. In addition, it is well documented (including by the well known report of the Kerner Commission, regarding the causes of the race riots of the 1960s) that these practices contribute in no small way to tensions between the police and the community.

9. Do you believe law enforcement officers should be obliged to report the immigration status of Pittsburgh residents to Immigration and Customs Enforcement? Why or why not?

I am very concerned about how the current political climate will affect the priorities of local law enforcement. After decades of disinvestment in addiction treatment and increased funding for the enforcement of drug crimes, local police are over-militarized and drug addition is more of a crisis than ever. It seemed as though the previous administration had been taking steps to change this dynamic — for example by pushing to change sentencing disparities, scaling back the 1033 program and scaling back federal asset forfeiture. However, with the new President having campaigned as the “Law and Order” candidate, and with the new Attorney General taking steps to reduce federal oversight of local police while at the same time re-escalate the War on Drugs, I am concerned that police-community relations will further deteriorate and public confidence in the justice system will further erode.

Requiring local police officers to carry out federal immigration priorities likely will further cause police-community relations to deteriorate. For example, although judges are cautioned against speaking publically regarding controversial social issues, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California recently spoke out against the practices of ICE agents “stalking” immigrants at courthouses and thereby disrupting the administration of justice.

I would only add that, as described in The New Jim Crow, at the advent of the War on Drugs municipal governments were resistant to using their local resources to carry out federal drug crime enforcement priorities — much the same as municipal governments now are resistant to using local resources to carry out federal immigration enforcement priorities. However, this resistance subsided when federal funding-incentives were offered in exchange for their cooperation. I am concerned that something similar will occur in the context of immigration if local leaders do not learn from these lessons of the past.

10. What factors do you consider during a landlord-tenant dispute?

Each case is unique and must be assessed individually. That being said, a non-exhaustive list of the factors that I will considered are: (a) any disparity in bargaining power or the sophistication of the parties; (b) whether or not the lease is a contract of adhesion; (c) whether or not the terms of the lease raise an issue of substantive unconscionability; (d) whether or not the circumstances under which the lease was negotiated raise an issue of procedural unconscionability; (e) method of service of legal process; (f) the mental and physical health or disabilities of the parties; (g) the facts that are in dispute; (h) the amount of money that is in dispute; (i) the credibility of the parties; (j) the habitability of the premises; (k) the location of the premises; and (l) the presence of minor children in the household.

11. Do you believe there should be a standard rental agreement in Allegheny County? If so, what provisions should be included?

HUD requires all low-income public housing authorities and providers such as the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh to include certain provisions in their rental agreements that purportedly are intended to protect the safety of their residents and the integrity of the affordable housing system in the United States. In my opinion, some of these provisions are ill conceived byproducts of the War on Drugs and Congress should take steps to eliminate or amend them.

At the same time, similar efforts could be undertaken by local governments, to protect the rights of tenants that do not live in public housing but are adversely affected by market forces such as gentrification, or by an inadvertent lack of sophistication regarding their rights and obligations under landlord-tenant laws. For example, a model lease agreement or model provisions could be developed, and incentives could be offered to landlords that adopt them.

Additionally, uniformity would provide a platform for tenant-rights education and awareness. This would put tenants and landlords on more of a level playing field or at more of an arms length during negotiations, and I believe that in turn this would lead to fewer evictions and other landlord-tenant disputes that tend to needlessly clog up the court system.

A non-exhaustive list of specific provisions could include: notices regarding tenants’ rights such as the right to the return of a security deposit, the right to the quiet enjoyment of premises, the implied warranty of habitability, and the responsibility of landlords to mitigate their damages in the event of early termination by a tenant; a uniform early termination provision that does not include unreasonable or excessive re-rental fees; a provision that specifies steps that a landlord must take in order to serve a tenant with legal process in the event of a legal dispute; and a directory of agency telephone numbers such as the Allegheny County Department of Health.

12. Given the shocking lack of adequate medical care at the Allegheny County Jail, as documented by the ACJ Health Justice Project, would you support efforts to close the Allegheny County Jail? Why or why not?

Shutting down the jail would be an extreme solution. The problem is systemic and pervasive. An important factor is the training and culture among jail staff. There is not a single inmate that this problem does not affect. But rather than shutting down the jail, I believe we need to transform our overall approach to incarceration, and as part of this invest heavily in the well-being of inmates by changing everything from the quality of the food that they eat to the quality of the health services that are available to them. We have grown accustomed to making a categorical distinction between the accused and the victim, but in my experience many of the inmates in ACJ are both.

13. Do you support designating Pittsburgh as a “sanctuary city”?

Personally, yes, absolutely.

14. How will you, as a district magistrate, ensure LGBT Pittsburghers receive full protection under the law?

This is an issue that I want to further explore in depth. Therefore, I will begin by meeting with LGBT community stakeholders and members to understand the particular challenges and concerns of the community. This will allow me to recognize and acknowledge those challenges when they arise in legal matters or in the community, which in turn will enable me to be a more impartial and unbiased judge. At this time there are a few steps that I am confident I will take: (1) I will treat everyone who enters my courtroom with dignity and respect; (2) I will acknowledge and consider how the unique challenges and concerns of the LGBT community may affect a particular legal dispute; (3) I will work with the Nuisance Bar Task Force and other stakeholders to monitor and if necessary shut down any public accommodation or establishment that does not provide a safe space for members of the LGBT community.

15. Do you believe incarceration is an effective means of combatting drug addiction?

Absolutely not. Incarceration is a completely inappropriate means of addressing drug addiction. In fact, jailing an addict can be tantamount to a death sentence. Several inmates in ACJ recently died or committed suicide as a result of complications associated with their addictions, and these deaths could have been avoided through diversion to treatment rather than incarceration.

Moreover, a recent study by the Allegheny County Health Department examining opioid overdose deaths in the County found that addicts are at an increased risk of overdose death during the first 90-days of release from ACJ. Thus, incarcerating addicts places them at increased risk of death both while they are in jail and soon after they are released. As District Justice, at least one of my administrative staff members will be a mental health professional.

16. Do you believe the “school-to-prison” pipeline is a problem? If so, what can you do as a district magistrate to help solve this problem?

I believe that there is no dispute as to the existence of the school-to-prison-pipeline. The question is: what are the factors that contribute to the pipeline, and what can be done to address these factors. The recently reported events at Woodland Hills High School have become a flashpoint regarding the pipeline. They present a pattern of facts from which at least some of the factors that contribute the pipeline can be identified.

First, and perhaps most evident, is the presence of police officers in schools. One could imagine that the presence of White police officers in schools where the students primarily are children of color, likely increases the impact of this factor. Second is the practice of referring students who misbehave to law enforcement. A recent report regarding inequities affecting Black girls in Pittsburgh and Allegheny county found that “Black girls in Allegheny County are referred to the juvenile court at a rate 11 times that of While girls.” Relatedly, a recent report by the Council of Great City Schools found that Pittsburgh Public Schools,

[Has] high out of school suspension rates compared with other major school districts.. 13 percent [of] its students were suspended between one and five days in 2014–15, which was the highest of all major cities on which we have data on this length of suspensions… [Furthermore, suspension] rates and patterns in the district indicate that students of color are suspended at disproportionately high rates. This is also true of students with disabilities and ELLs. No one in the district is held accountable for these rates.

(emphasis added) When students misbehave in school, we are displacing them from the learning environment by either referring them to law enforcement or by suspending them from school. We are taking these approaches more often when the misbehaving student is a child of color or a child with a disability. It is difficult to characterize these outcomes in any way other than outrageous. These patterns and practices mirror those of the justice system as described above, and suggests that over time the pipeline has caused the separation between of juvenile and criminal justice systems to erode.

Third, when a behavior issue escalates into a delinquency issue, the ways in which we attempt to remedy the delinquency contribute to the school to prison pipeline. For example, I believe that punishing a child by simply requiring a certain number of hours of community service is tantamount to a sentence. We essentially are teaching the child how to serve time. I believe a more restorative and proactive approach will lead to better outcomes for the child such as reduced likelihood of re-offending, and it will build more secure protective bonds. This in turn will lead to disruption rather than entrenchment of the pipeline. Finally, another important factor is the investment of public dollars in incarceration at the expense of education. For instance, we spend $81B per year on incarceration, and this same amount could fund universal preschool. According to one study, between 1987 and 2007 the U.S. increased funding for incarceration by 127%, but increased funding for public education by only 20%.

17. What factors do you consider when adjudicating cases involving youth?

As the former Field and Policy Director for the Pennsylvania League of Young Voters, and as the founder of a youth mentoring organization, I have engaged and trained dozens of young people who oftentimes came from challenging personal circumstances. Through this I have learned that at-risk young people require proactive, hands on leadership and guidance.

In cases involving youth and when taking a restorative approach the overarching question usually is: what is in the best interests of the child? Several factors to consider include but are not limited to: the wishes of the child, the mental and physical health of the child and his or her parents, religious and cultural considerations, the home and school environments, parental approaches to discipline, and evidence of abuse.

18. As a district magistrate, how, if at all, should you be involved in the community?

The Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Ethics provides that, “[a] judge shall uphold and promote the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.” For example, a judge, “shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to the following circumstances… [t]he judge, while a judge or judicial candidate, has made a public statement other than in a court proceeding, judicial decision, or opinion, that commits the judge to reach a particular result or rule a particular way in a proceeding or controversy.” At the same time, “[j]udges should participate in activities that promote ethical conduct among judges and lawyers, support professionalism within the judiciary and the legal profession, and promote access to justice for all,” (emphasis added) and “[j]udges are encouraged to initiate and participate in community outreach events for the purpose of promoting understanding of and confidence in the administration of justice.”

In light of these principles, among others, I believe that is it appropriate for judges to be involved in the community in general, especially in the legal community and when promoting the rule of law outside of the legal community. Even in the context of controversial issues, judges can craft public statements that do not compromise independence. The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities, by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, provides an excellent example.

With respect to District Justices in particular, I strongly believe that their fundamental role as the local representative of the judicial system and community peacemakers, requires them to be heavily involved in the community — consistent with their ethical and legal obligations, of course. Judges must find a way to come down from their benches and out from their chambers to be with the people, in order to restore public confidence in the justice system. This is especially true for District Justices. Unfortunately, one could imagine that a judge might rely on his or her obligation to not appear to be impartial as an excuse to avoid community involvement. One could imagine that, if this approach were to become a norm, it would have an alienating affect and thereby lead to distrust regarding the justice system.

19. Anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?

Thank you for the opportunity to apply for your endorsement. I found your questions insightful and challenging, and enjoyed preparing my answers to them. I look forward to discussing how the ideals and values of Democratic Socialism can be applied and carried out in the context of the judiciary.

Elected, Independent, District Judge in Pittsburgh, PA. Access to justice is essential to a vibrant and equitable democracy. he/him/his