Court of Common Pleas Candidates

The Courts of Common Pleas are the general trial courts of Pennsylvania. Judges who preside over the Courts of Common Pleas are responsible for appeals from the Magisterial District Courts, as well as Civil and Criminal matters that cannot be heard in the Magisterial District Courts, Orphans’ Court matters, and matters involving juveniles and families.

In Delaware County, each judge will focus on one topical area (Criminal, Civil, Juvenile, Family) for a designated period of time; the President Judge normally hears Orphans’ Court matters.

The Courts of Common Pleas are organized into 60 judicial districts. Most districts follow the geographic boundaries of counties (as does Delaware County), but seven of the districts are comprised of two counties. Each County's Courts of Common Pleas function a little differently than every other County, based on their own rules of filing and Administration. Each district has from one to 93 judges and has a President Judge and a court administrator. At present, Delaware County has 20 judges, one of whom is the President Judge.

Democrats

Kelly Eckel, Esq.

Kelly Eckel

Kelly Eckel, Esq. is a commercial litigator at Duane Morris LLP. For more than 20 years, Eckel has represented clients in a variety of litigation matters, including commercial fraud, complex contracts, business torts, intellectual property, employment litigation, and bankruptcy litigation. In 2010, Eckel was appointed to the American Arbitration Association’s (AAA) Roster of Neutrals for commercial cases, a list of practitioners who hear and decide cases filed in the AAA forum. As an arbitrator, Eckel presides over pre-trial and trial hearings, resolves discovery disputes, issues rulings and awards, and resolves disputes between parties. She serves as a Mediator for landlord-tenant disputes in Philadelphia, and since 2005 has coordinated her law firm’s participation in a public service program for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and oversees young lawyers’ pro-bono handling of civil rights lawsuits in that court. A resident of Upper Providence Township, Eckel earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard University and received her law degree from Temple University School of Law.

Responses to H-CAN’s fall 2019 questionnaire:

How would you ensure that a disabled witness and/or party would be able to fully participate in the judicial process and, if necessary, communicate with a jury?

The Americans with Disabilities Act, state legislation that has adopted many of its provisions, anti-discrimination provisions in other statutes, and the Judicial Conference of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts all set forth laws, rules, and/or policies to ensure reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. As a trial court judge, I would exercise the broad discretion that the laws provide to ensure that a trial is fair and just to all participants--whether witness, party, or jury member. This includes ensuring that the manner and methods of testimony are such that disabled witnesses, parties, and jurors can fully participate in the judicial process. For example, speech-generating devices, communication boards, speech-to-speech transmission, sign language interpreters, and facilitated communication can be used in appropriate circumstances. The use of leading questions on direct examination may be appropriate in certain situations; in other circumstances, courts might allow for extra measures to explain the contents of documents introduced into evidence. The type of accommodation the court may provide will vary according to the type of disability presented by the particular witness, party, or jury member, with the ultimate goal of ensuring ensure equal access and participation by and for all in the judicial process.

To what extent, if any, do you think that local police and other government-related agencies should cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding the apprehension and detention of immigrants?

Enforcement of immigration laws is within the exclusive jurisdiction of federal courts, and absent direct legislative authority having been delegated to the state court, a state court judge may not consider the immigration status of a defendant when adjudicating a case. A judge may not overstep his/her jurisdiction over a particular matter, and if he/she does, it can invalidate the rulings in that case. Judges should be mindful of their duty to administer justice fairly—not allowing issues of federal law (such as a party or witness’s immigration status) to interfere with state court proceedings, as this prevents a judge from adjudicating cases, (if, for example, a party or a witness does not appear out of fear that they will be apprehended by federal authorities) and also gives rise to the perception that the judge is not independent of politics. The judiciary is bound to uphold and apply the law of the land—whether in the United States or in the state in which it sits. Judges must uphold the laws regardless of whether they agree or disagree with them, and it is not a judge’s role to advocate for reform—that role belongs to the legislative branch and those running for legislative office.

That said, I am familiar with arguments presented by scholars that suggest that ICE detainers are illegal and should not serve as substitutes for judicial warrants for arrest. To the extent that those arguments are based on laws that would guide the outcome in a particular matter, I will examine the law, determine how to proceed, and rule accordingly on a case-by-case basis.

Responses to H-CAN’s spring 2019 questionnaire:

How will you bring a unique perspective to your impartial role?

I have more than 20 years of legal experience from handling a wide variety of cases in courts throughout the nation; nearly a decade of judicial experience from presiding over cases as a private arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association; and an independence of thought and open-mindedness, rooted in my personal background—having lived, studied, and worked in many places in the US and abroad for 50 years. All of those experiences have shaped my deep appreciation for the diversity of our community and the need to hear those who come before the court with an open mind and to apply the law equally to all. As an arbitrator, I preside over countless cases every year, from time of filing through discovery, motions, and final hearing. In my law practice, I've represented countless parties—individuals and businesses of many sizes, plaintiffs and defendants. Before entering private practice, I worked for two judges; these experiences had a profound impact on how I practice law and how I rule on cases as an arbitrator. I know that it's important to become fluent in the law and facts of the dispute, but it's equally important that the parties feel respected and are given the chance to present their case to someone who will apply the law fairly to all parties, regardless of their background. Please see my website, eckelforjudge.com, for more information about my candidacy.

What experience do you have in the Courts of Common Pleas: Civil, Criminal, Family, Juvenile, or Orphans Courts, in Delaware County or other jurisdictions?

Civil Court of Delaware County, 1-5 years, other jurisdictions, 16-20 years
Criminal Court of Delaware County or other jurisdictions, 0-1 years
Juvenile Court of Delaware County or other jurisdictions, 0-1 years
Family Court of Delaware County or other jurisdictions, 0-1 years
Orphans Court in Delaware County or other jurisdictions, 0-1 years

What is your view on how the Court of Common Pleas Judiciary can shape criminal justice reform?

The Code of Judicial Conduct provides that judicial candidates may not make pledges or promises other than the faithful and impartial performance of the duties of office; moreover, candidates are prohibited by ethics laws and rules from answering questions about policy and legislative issues. Reform of the laws that govern our criminal justice system is exclusively within the power of the legislature, and enforcement of those laws is within the purview of prosecutors. As a judge, I would be bound to uphold the laws as they exist; however, I believe that all parties who come before the court deserve the same treatment: to be treated with respect and dignity, and to have the laws applied fairly and equally to all. To the extent judges have discretion under the law (typically by virtue of the application of various factors to a given scenario), judges should “do the work” of applying those factors instead of mechanically reaching conclusions. There are no cookie cutter answers to legal disputes, and proper consideration of all applicable factors is required to arrive at a just outcome. I look forward to working with the District Attorney to implement programs--to the extent such programs involve the judges of the Court of Common Pleas--whose goals seek to achieve fair application of the law to all who come before the court.

Why are you running?

I believe that judges do real work, that judgeships are not prizes awarded at the endpoint of a career, and that justice should not depend on whom you know or don’t know. I’m ready to do that work, on day one and for many years to come. I’m running because this is an opportunity to apply, on a daily basis and for the benefit of the entire Delaware County community, the legal and judicial skills I've developed over the course of my 20+-year career and the open-mindedness and appreciation for diversity I've acquired over the course of 50 years of living in many communities throughout the US and abroad. My “platform” is that judges should be Experienced. Impartial. Independent. And that I bring each of those qualities and more to the table. I have provided to H-CAN a summary page of biographical information about my personal background and the link to my website, which has significant information about my candidacy. I'm honored to have been endorsed in this race by the Delaware County Democratic Party, PA National Organization for Women, Delaware County Black Caucus, and former US Congressman and retired Admiral Joe Sestak. I was humbled that 62,639 Delaware County voters cast their ballots for me in 2017, and look forward to their renewed support this year.

Do you have any known conflicts that would prevent you from hearing a Civil or Criminal case against Sunoco or Energy Transfer Partners? Elaborate.

Judicial candidates are prohibited by the Pennsylvania Rules of Judicial Conduct and ethics laws from commenting on potential conflicts of interest and cases that may come before the court.

Read more on Kelly Eckel’s website.

Note: Kelly Eckle, Esq. is is endorsed by the DELCO Dems, the Haverford Democrats, and the Delaware County Black Caucus.

Honorable Stephanie H. Klein, Esq.

Stephanie Klein

Judge Stephanie Klein, Esq. previously served as Magisterial District Judge for Media, Nether Providence, and Swarthmore for 18 years. Currently a mediator and arbitrator in civil matters with ADR Options, Klein is experienced with cases involving veterans’ benefits, unemployment and Social Security benefits, tenant rights, the homeless, and domestic violence. She began her career working for a veterans’ legal services program, then served as law clerk to Court of Common Pleas Judge Edward S. Lawhorne. She received the Paul Sand Award from the Delaware County Bar Association for her efforts on behalf of arranging legal services for poor residents. She reorganized the Delco Legal Assistance program in the city of Chester, chairs the Pro Bono Committee, co-chairs the Women in the Law Committee for the Delaware County Bar Association, and sits on the board of Legal Aid of Southeast PA. Klein is a graduate of SUNY-Binghamton with a law degree from the Washington College of Law, American University in Washington, D.C.

Responses to H-CAN’s fall 2019 questionnaire:

How would you ensure that a disabled witness and/or party would be able to fully participate in the judicial process and, if necessary, communicate with a jury?

Impediments to fully participating in the courts take many forms. The Pennsylvania Courts addressed impediments for some deaf and hearing impaired in promulgating comprehensive guidelines regarding limited English proficiency which includes individuals who are deaf or who have hearing impairments. It set up comprehensive systems for qualifying sign language interpreters to be utilized at all court services and at court hearings to ensure that these individuals have access.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that other impediments to full participation in the courts must be accommodated. This must be accomplished on a case-by-case basis. For example, for an individual with a hearing impairment who does not sign, amplification or simultaneous transcription of court proceedings might be required. For an individual with a severe back problem, he or she might need to take frequent breaks during the long court day. Individuals with vision impairments might need special assistance as well. Individuals with cognitive difficulties, intellectual disabilities, or mental health issues might need special accommodations on a case-by-case basis. The judge must work with counsel and parties and be creative to ensure that disabled individuals, parties and witnesses, may fully and completely participate in the judicial system. The judge must make every effort to not only afford disabled parties due process, but a full and fair day in court.

To what extent, if any, do you think that local police and other government-related agencies should cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding the apprehension and detention of immigrants?

As a judicial candidate, under the Rules of Judicial Conduct, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on this question. However, there are aspects of this question which pertain to police and other government-related agencies and ICE that I can comment on.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, through the Pennsylvania Office of Administrative Courts (AOPC), has established a comprehensive system to ensure that non-English proficient persons and persons without English language ability have full access to court services and the ability to fully participate in court hearings and trials. Given the fact that in Upper Darby alone, 69 languages are spoken, increasingly Delaware County courts must accommodate litigants who need language assistance to fully participate.

At the same time, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) now seeks to enforce immigration laws at courthouses throughout the Commonwealth, including Delaware County. The Interbranch Commission on Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness of the AOPC issued a memorandum in 2018 outlining their concerns where ICE has detained defendants, witnesses as well as victims of crime. The report suggests that these detentions have had a chilling effect on such individuals, making them too afraid to enter the courthouse. Similarly, it states that some victims have refrained from reporting crimes or filing for protection from abuse orders out of those same fears.

The Interbranch Commission issued recommendations worthy of consideration by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court including: 1. issuing guidance to state judicial officers that immigration enforcement has not been delegated to the state courts and may violate U.S. Supreme Court precedent as well as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; 2. recommending limitation of ICE officers in state courtrooms and court-related offices. I would welcome guidance from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the AOPC to definitively resolve these issues.

Responses to H-CAN’s spring 2019 questionnaire:

How will you bring a unique perspective to your impartial role?

I was a legal services attorney for 10 years, 5 of which I worked in the City of Chester, one of the poorest cities in the United States. I ran the pro bono program, recruiting several hundred attorneys to represent clients who otherwise would lack access to legal advice and representation. Early in my career I represented people at the worst time in their lives: veterans seeking to upgrade their less than honorable discharges who could not access VA benefits and the disabled and unemployed, hoping to achieve some economic stability by accessing federal and state benefits to which they were entitled. As the magisterial district judge for Media Borough, Swarthmore Borough and Nether Providence for 18 years, I carried this knowledge of those clients to execute my duties fairly and impartially but also with an understanding of the difficulties that face ordinary people. I was able to ask defendants relevant questions, for example, about their work situation or medical situation in order to work with prosecutors and police to achieve a fair result for all. As a judge, I felt it was my job to afford every single litigant and attorney their fair day in court so that regardless of the result, they left my courtroom feeling that they had the opportunity to be heard. I will bring that sensibility and that knowledge to the Court of Common Pleas if elected.

What experience do you have in the Courts of Common Pleas: Civil, Criminal, Family, Juvenile, or Orphans’ Courts, in Delaware County or other jurisdictions?

Civil Court of Delaware County - 11-15 years, other jurisdictions 16-20 years
Criminal Court of Delaware County - 1-5 years, and other jurisdictions - 16-20 years
Juvenile Court in Delaware County  and other jurisdictions - 16-20 years
Family Court in Delaware County - 11-15 years,  and other jurisdictions - 0-1 years
Orphans’ Court in Delaware County and other jurisdictions - 0-1 years

What is your view on how the Court of Common Pleas Judiciary can shape criminal justice reform?

As a judge, I will work to improve the criminal justice system from within. I will support efforts to reform the cash bail system, support efforts to extend and reform veterans, drug and mental health treatment courts, look at options for other kinds of treatment courts, support efforts to improve juvenile court and look at other innovative efforts to improve criminal justice for people of color, minorities and for all. I will endeavor to not only afford every defendant a full and fair hearing and but also endeavor to achieve the perception of a full and fair hearing.

Why are you running?

There are four vacancies at the Court of Common Pleas and Delaware County has never elected a Democratic judge. I have 18 years of experience as a magisterial district judge with experience in criminal, civil, traffic, juvenile and domestic violence cases. As a judge, I was able to utilize my additional ten years of experience as a legal services attorney working with clients dealing with mental health and alcohol and drug addiction to assist my resolution of these kinds of cases in my Court. I spent every day on the bench attempting to ensure that each litigant and their attorney had a full and fair opportunity to be heard and worked with prosecutors, police, litigants and victims to achieve fair and equitable resolutions for all in criminal cases. I have practiced family law and dealt with all of the practice areas of Common Pleas Court as a judge, law clerk or practitioner except Orphans’ Court, which is reserved for the President Judge.  I currently work as a mediator and arbitrator, believe that our Court could benefit from diversion of more cases to alternative dispute resolution and am ready to work towards that goal. I am convinced that my experience and knowledge would be an asset to the Court of Common Pleas and am ready to work with my colleagues on the bench to improve the administration of justice for all participants in the Court system.

Do you have any known conflicts that would prevent you from hearing a Civil or Criminal case against Sunoco or Energy Transfer Partners? Elaborate.

Pursuant to the Pennsylvania Rules of Judicial Conduct, candidates for judicial office are precluded from commenting on potential conflicts of interest and cases that might come before the court.

Read more on Stephanie Klein’s website.

Note: Stephanie Klein is endorsed by the DELCO Dems, the Haverford Democrats, and the Delaware County Black Caucus.


Richard H. Lowe, Esq.

Rick Lowe

Richard Lowe, Esq, has more than 35 years of legal experience, including more than 10 years as an arbitrator, and almost as long as a mediator and a “judge pro tem” (judge for a day) in complex cases.  Lowe is a partner at the Duane Morris LLP law firm in Philadelphia where he specializes in construction matters. He sits on the Board of the American College of Construction Lawyers and has served on its Diversity Committee. As a volunteer at SCI Phoenix (formerly Graterford) maximum security prison, Lowe has designed and taught a course on the U.S. Constitution and is currently the outside liaison for inmates seeking legislation that would provide parole eligibility for “lifers.” As a young lawyer, he became active with the pro-bono group Philadelphia Volunteers for Indigent Persons (Philly VIP). Swarthmore’s first Democratic mayor, 2010-2014, and Swarthmore Borough Solicitor, 1997-2000, Lowe now resides in Middletown Township. He has been an Election Protection lawyer, and has helped lead the Credentials Committee at recent Delco Dems nominating conventions. Lowe has a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from New York University.

Responses to H-CAN’s fall 2019 questionnaire:

How would you ensure that a disabled witness and/or party would be able to fully participate in the judicial process and, if necessary, communicate with a jury?

Fortunately, on June 18, 2019 the President Judge of Delaware County Court of Common Pleas issued "President Judge Administrative Order," appointing an ADA Coordinator to review applications for accommodations for anyone to participate in the judicial process (including communicating with a jury). This appointment is in accordance with the "Reasonable Accommodations" provisions of the Pennsylvania Rule of Judicial Administration No. 252 and with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. (See ADA details here.) Presumably reasonable accommodations would be made after a) a person applied in writing for an accommodation and b) the ADA Coordinator addressed the request.

To the extent that I presided over a case in which an accommodation issue was not resolved pursuant to that process, and assuming that under the law I would be permitted to participate, I would gladly participate in that process in an attempt to reach a reasonable solution.

To what extent, if any, do you think that local police and other government-related agencies should cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding the apprehension and detention of immigrants?

This is a very serious issue. The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts has issued the following guidance, which I would follow: "It is best practice not to make inquiry into a court user’s federal immigration status, unless immigration status is relevant to the matter before the court or judicial agency. " ("ADVISORY RE: TITLE VI OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT"). Moreover, on April 5, 2018, the Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Fairness (“Commission”) issued its "Reports of State Court Judicial Officers’ Assumption of Jurisdiction Over Immigration Issues and the Impact of the Presence of Immigration Enforcement Agents in Courthouses on Litigants’ Constitutional Rights." That document included a number of recommendations for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to consider implementing, so that ICE enforcement would not interfere with the operations of the state courts. It would be beneficial if the state Supreme Court considered and took appropriate action regarding those recommendations.

Responses to H-CAN’s spring 2019 questionnaire:

How will you bring a unique perspective to your impartial role?

I served as Mayor of Swarthmore (the first Democrat to do so), and on my first day in office as mayor, I joined Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and became active with that group, speaking all over Delaware County, and in Harrisburg and Washington DC. My commitment to looking at and understanding the problem of gun violence in our country led me to SCI Graterford (now Phoenix) prison. Initially I met with the men at Graterford to discuss how to stop the scourge of gun violence among young people. I was so impressed by the men  - many of whom were "lifers" - that I decided to volunteer to teach a weekly class on American Constitutional history. I also taught a class on writing. The relationships that I developed were - and continue to be - extremely important to me. It is not an exaggeration to say that knowing them has changed my life. I developed a deep appreciation for their resilience - how, in the face of a lifetime on the "inside" they continued to commit themselves each day to improving themselves. After the class ended, the men asked me to serve as their outside liaison to promote legislation to permit parole eligibility for deserving lifers. In that position, I have worked with several of the Commonwealth's leading victims' advocates, as well as "returning" juvenile lifers, and the friends and families of lifers.

What experience do you have in the Courts of Common Pleas: Civil, Criminal, Family, Juvenile, or Orphans’ Courts, in Delaware County or other jurisdictions?

Civil Court in Delaware County, 16-20 years, other jurisdictions - 16-20 years
Criminal Court in Delaware County other jurisdictions - 0-1 years
Juvenile Court in Delaware County and other jurisdictions - 0-1 years
Family Court in Delaware County and other jurisdictions - 0-1 years
Orphans’ Court in Delaware County and other jurisdictions - 0-1 years

What is your view on how the Court of Common Pleas Judiciary can shape criminal justice reform?

The Court should take more action to respond to the sad reality that too many defendants in our system are there because of substance abuse/addiction and/or mental health issues. The public's concern about safety and security must be appropriately balanced with the practical necessity—and urgency—of the need for treatment.  We cannot solve the scourge of opioids through the criminal justice system alone—we need to devote additional resources to creating affordable treatment options. In addition, we need to analyze, and where appropriate, take action to assure that people are not being locked up simply because they are too poor to make bail. Long ago, as a society, we abandoned the idea of debtors' prison. We should not let excessive bail take us backwards into that sad state. It is vital that we conduct a comprehensive review on excessive bail and its effects, especially because Delco is the only county in Pennsylvania that runs a private prison. We must assure that a corporate profit motive does not lead to more people being locked up than is appropriate for legitimate public purposes, and that the Court does everything in its power to develop and implement whatever reforms are necessary to achieve that goal.

Why are you running?

Two reasons: on a personal level, as an arbitrator and mediator for over ten years, I have found resolving people's differences in an impartial way immensely satisfying. Second, and perhaps more importantly: for far too long, we have suffered from having one political party exclusively in charge of the courthouse. That has led to a lack of different perspectives in the courthouse, and to a general public perception (accurate or not) that it's tough to get a fair shake in the courthouse if you don't "know someone." By making history as one of the first Democrats elected to the Court of Common Pleas, I would help bring a new perspective to the bench and would help restore confidence in the public's belief that they will get a fair shake in the courthouse. I believe that I am well-suited to help bring new ideas to the courthouse. Already, I have proposed to the Court and the Delco Bar Association that the Court implement a mediation program to help needy residential homeowners when faced with losing their homes to foreclosure. Montco, Bucks, and Philadelphia Counties have such programs, and Delco should.  Legal Aid of Southeast Pennsylvania (LASP) has submitted a letter in strong support.

Do you have any known conflicts that would prevent you from hearing a Civil or Criminal case against Sunoco or Energy Transfer Partners? Elaborate.

I cannot answer this question, because judicial candidates are prohibited by the rules of judicial ethics from commenting on potential conflicts of interest and other cases that may come before them if they get elected to be judges.

Read more on Richard H. Lowe’s website.

Note:  Richard Lowe, Esq. is endorsed by the DELCO Dems and the Haverford Democrats.

Nusrat Rashid, Esq.

Nusrat Rashid

An attorney in her own practice in the City of Chester, Nusrat Rashid, Esq. specializes in criminal and family law. After clerking for a judge in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia County and working as an associate in two different law firms for a dozen years, she opened The Rashid Firm in 2010, representing both private and court-appointed clients in court. Rashid has become a legal advocate in Delaware County courts for individuals and families in crisis and has experience with representation at all levels of the criminal justice system, especially the sentencing process, as well as experience with multi-disciplinary and competency cases in juvenile court. Rashid has also developed tier level rehabilitation programs with juvenile probation and treatment facilities. Rashid has served as acting Zoning Solicitor for Chester Township. She has been on the board of her neighborhood civic association, supervised a college scholarship program, and worked with the Delaware County Bar Association on its outreach program in the Chester public schools. Rashid earned a B.A. at Swarthmore College and graduated from Temple University School of Law.

Responses to H-CAN’s fall 2019 questionnaire:

How would you ensure that a disabled witness and/or party would be able to fully participate in the judicial process and, if necessary, communicate with a jury?

Courts should make every effort necessary for the court process to be equally accessible to disabled persons while maintaining the individual’s dignity and the integrity of the court.

Technology can assist in the effort to make justice more accessible. I would request the court to provide aids such as assistive listening devices, sign language and braille interpreter services, and hearing aid induction loops in courtrooms–allowing hearing and sight impaired individuals to participate fully. For individuals with behavioral and/or developmental disabilities such as autism, I believe that it would be helpful to have readily available calming tools and to advise the courtroom staff that redirection intervals may be necessary–all to ensure that the party or witness is able to properly communicate their testimony or statement. I would also stress the importance of every courtroom having handicap accessibility, including a designated space for service and emotional support animals.

To what extent, if any, do you think that local police and other government-related agencies should cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding the apprehension and detention of immigrants?

Although not technically a government-related agency, the state trial court has the overall responsibility to remain efficient and accessible to all litigants, victims, witnesses and defendants, who, regardless of their immigration status and changing political climates, are entitled to due process and equal treatment under the law. However, as immigration is the sole responsibility of the federal government, state courts have little to no responsibility to enforce immigration policy. The presence of federal agents in a county courthouse may increase the reluctance of immigrant victims and witnesses to participate in the court system, which can hinder and prevent criminal prosecution. This is especially tragic for adult and child victims of domestic abuse who may not appear in court for fear of adverse immigration action. Similar to other jurisdictions, the PA courts may develop guidelines to address federal apprehension of individuals in the courthouse that takes into account legality of the detention, courthouse safety and individual accessibility to justice.

The court, remaining bound to and by the law, should also carefully consider each fact pattern in light of the applicable law before making any decisions regarding cooperation with federal agencies. The most important considerations are the applicable statutes and once the statute is applied to the facts, for the court to make the appropriate fair and unbiased decision.

As a judicial candidate, I cannot comment as to whether local law enforcement should cooperate with federal immigration agencies. Local police and other government-related agencies are subject to the laws of their jurisdictions and it is up to the agencies to determine whether any requested action from a federal officer is mandated or permitted by the applicable law and then make their decision on whether to cooperate based on that law.

Responses to H-CAN’s spring 2019 questionnaire:

How will you bring a unique perspective to your impartial role?

I firmly believe that fair justice can be administered only by applying the law with humanity and compassion. I am confident that my decades of courtroom experience give me valuable insight into the necessity for empathy on the bench. Judges must be fair and unbiased, however, every judge should maintain a level of compassion necessary to listen and understand all of the issues and adjudicate with impartiality. I have represented individuals and families my entire career, I know what the average person expects of the court—to have their case heard without prejudice of any kind. Most criminal and family cases require a working knowledge of dispute resolution, current therapy trends, and rehabilitative options—I am experienced and knowledgeable in these areas. As a criminal defense and family attorney, I coordinate with mental health practitioners, educational advocates, caseworkers, probation officers, etc. to ensure a just and fair outcome under the law. I am also extremely sensitive to the importance of a judge in affecting people's daily lives because I represent people in the legal dilemmas of their daily lives. In short, my temperament and legal experience endow me with a unique perspective necessary to ensuring that every litigant is treated fairly and impartially.  

What experience do you have in the Courts of Common Pleas: Civil, Criminal, Family, Juvenile, or Orphans’ Courts, in Delaware County or other jurisdictions?

Delaware County Civil Court, 5-10 years, other jurisdictions - 11-15 years
Delaware County Criminal Court - 5-10 years, other jurisdictions - 5-10 years
Delaware County Juvenile Court - 5-10 years, other jurisdictions - 5-10 years
Delaware County Family Court - 5-10 years, other jurisdictions - 5-10 years
Delaware County Orphans’ Court - 5-10 years, other jurisdictions - 0-1 years

What is your view on how the Court of Common Pleas Judiciary can shape criminal justice reform?

Common Pleas judges are the front line guardians of fair and equitable sanctions under the law for those found guilty of crimes. Unlike the legislature and the appellate courts, Common Pleas judges face defendants and victims in open court on a daily basis and must be sensitive to the impact of their decisions on the everyday lives of citizens in their own community. The judge must absolutely follow the letter and intent of the law. However, judges should also consider how to best balance rehabilitation with retribution and crime control within the confines of the law—the judge should understand the impact that both criminal behavior as well as incarceration has on a family and community. Compassion and empathy is necessary towards all parties as well as careful consideration of all of the evidence. Judges hold great power in discretionary sentencing. Judges, in determining the appropriate sentence, should review a number of different factors apart from the sentencing guidelines, including the nature, circumstances, and seriousness of the offense; the “history and characteristics” of the person charged; and whether the sentence or punishment provides an opportunity for the person charged to receive needed educational or vocational training, medical care, or other treatment that addresses the root cause of an individual’s contact with the criminal justice system.

Why are you running?

The trial court must reflect the values, character, and people of the community it serves. It deeply affects me that for many people in Delaware County equal liberty and justice is considered an unreachable goal.  Right now, they deserve confidence in the legal system and to know that the entire county, not just a select politically connected few, has representation on the bench. I believe that the citizens of Delaware County would agree that inclusion and diversity are important qualities for our trial court. There is no doubt that judicial diversity is essential to ensuring equal justice for all, to increasing public confidence in the courts, and to evenly distribute qualified representation in the administration of justice. I am running for judge because it is time for the entire county to benefit from the varied perspectives, viewpoints, and background that a diverse court can bring. I have spent the last twenty years representing the voiceless and powerless in courtrooms—it is now time to put that experience towards a new and greater purpose for the benefit of the citizens of Delaware County.

Do you have any known conflicts that would prevent you from hearing a Civil or Criminal case against Sunoco or Energy Transfer Partners? Elaborate.

Pursuant to the Pennsylvania Rules of Judicial Conduct, candidates for judicial office are precluded from commenting on potential conflicts of interest and cases that might come before the court.

Read more on Nusrat Rashid’s website.

Note: Nusrat Rashid, Esq. is endorsed by the DELCO Dems, the Haverford Democrats, and the Delaware County Black Caucus.

Republicans

Beth Naughton Beck, Esq.

Beth Naughton Beck

Elizabeth Naughton Beck, Esq. is a partner in the Media Regional Office of Swartz Campbell LLC. She is a member of the Pennsylvania and Delaware County Bar Associations. Her areas of practice include uninsured and underinsured motor vehicle law, premises liability, product liability and municipal law.  She is also Township solicitor of Aston Township. Beck is currently Chairperson of the Delaware County Drug & Alcohol Advisory Council and serves on the Board of Directors for two non-profit organizations in Delaware County: The Community’s Foundation and Values into Action. Naughton Beck received an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Villanova and earned a J.D. from Widener University School of Law.

Read more on Elizabeth Naughton Beck’s website.

Beth Naughton Beck did not respond to H-CAN’s spring and fall 2019 questionnaires.

Note: Elizabeth Naughton Beck is endorsed by the Delaware County GOP.

George B. Dawson, Esq.

George B. Dawson

George B. Dawson, Esq. is a Deputy District Attorney in the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office serving as the Chief of the Anti-Violence, Insurance Fraud and Auto Theft units.  An attorney specializing in domestic relations, personal injury, and contract dispute litigation, he has also run a private law practice in Holmes since 2002. He is a former member of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. His community involvement includes years of service as a Ridley School Board Director as well as a long-time coach for Ridley Jr. ABA and the Ridley Township spring league basketball programs. Dawson has been rated “well qualified” to serve as judge by the Delaware County Bar Association. Dawson received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from King’s College, and a J.D. from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

Responses to H-CAN’s fall 2019 questionnaire:

How would you ensure that a disabled witness and/or party would be able to fully participate in the judicial process and, if necessary, communicate with a jury?

As a Commissioner with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, I am well aware of the hurdles that are faced by persons with disabilities. I would assure that they are able to fully participate as a witness and/or party by providing any and all reasonable accommodations necessary.

To what extent, if any, do you think that local police and other government-related agencies should cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding the apprehension and detention of immigrants?

Immigration is a federal police power, so it would not be within the jurisdiction of the Common Pleas Court. Moreover, the rules do not permit me to comment on any issue that could potentially come before me.

Responses to H-CAN’s spring 2019 questionnaire:

How will you bring a unique perspective to your impartial role?

Not only do we have to be impartial, but we have to use our lived experience as part of our decision-making process. My lived experience includes being an African American male, raised by a single teenager, who has practiced both defense and prosecution of criminal matters. This experience made me realize the need for a fair, just system that balances the needs of the victims, and the rights of the accused.  

What experience do you have in the Courts of Common Pleas: Civil, Criminal, Family, Juvenile, or Orphans Courts, in Delaware County or other jurisdictions?

Delaware County Civil Court, 16-20 years, other jurisdictions - 1-5 years
Delaware County Criminal Court - 16-20 years, other jurisdictions - 1-5 years
Delaware County Juvenile Court - 5-10 years, other jurisdictions - 0-1 years
Delaware County Family Court -11-15  years, other jurisdictions - 0-1 years
Delaware County Orphans’ Court - 5-10 years, other jurisdictions - 0-1 years

What is your view on how the Court of Common Pleas Judiciary can shape criminal justice reform?

The Court has made a start in having specialized programs, and speciality courts which are meant to address the underlying issues that brought people to this point. The Court can further look at addressing bail reform, youthful offender programs, and expanding mental health court.  

Why are you running?

I feel I bring a wealth of legal knowledge and life experiences that make me both insightful and empathic that would be an asset to the Board of Judges.  

Do you have any known conflicts that would prevent you from hearing a Civil or Criminal case against Sunoco or Energy Transfer Partners? Elaborate.

No.

Read more on George B. Dawson’s Facebook page.

Note: George B. Dawson, Esq.  is endorsed by the Delaware County GOP and the Delaware County Black Caucus.

Steven K. Gerber, Esq.

Steven K. Gerber

Steven K. Gerber, Esq.  joined Cozen O'Connor in 1992 and his practice focuses on litigating property damage matters arising from fires, building collapses, water damage and product failures. He has experience as a civil trial lawyer and litigator in state and federal courts, is a member of the Delaware County Bar Association, and regularly serves as a civil arbitrator in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas. Additionally, Gerber has served on the Bar Association Legal Services for the Poor and Pro Bono Steering Committee. Gerber previously served on the Radnor Township School Board, where he was board president for a term. He currently serves on the Center for Resolutions Board and is a Delaware County Representative to the SEPTA Citizens Advisory Committee. Gerber is a graduate of Trinity College and received a law degree from the College of William and Mary School of Law.

Steven Gerber did not responsd to H-CAN’s fall 2019 questionnaire.

Responses to H-CAN’s spring 2019 questionnaire:

How will you bring a unique perspective to your impartial role?

I will be able to give back to our community by bringing my 27 years of experience as a trial lawyer and litigator, as well as my personal experience of facing a serious illness, to impartially serve Delaware County residents with compassion and integrity.

What experience do you have in the Courts of Common Pleas: Civil, Criminal, Family, Juvenile, or Orphans Courts, in Delaware County or other jurisdictions?

Civil Court of Delaware County and other jurisdictions, 16-20 years
Criminal Court of Delaware County and other jurisdictions, 0-1 years
Juvenile Court in Delaware County  and other jurisdictions, 0-1
Family Court in Delaware County and other jurisdictions, 0-1 years
Orphans’ Court in Delaware County and other jurisdictions, 0-1 years

What is your view on how the Court of Common Pleas Judiciary can shape criminal justice reform?

Minimal legislative role, but through my board service on the Center For Resolutions, with respect to juvenile justice, early intervention before cases get to the Court of Common Pleas can make have a profound impact. With respect to domestic abuse, a view that protects the safety of the individuals involved through the tools available to the court (e.g. PFA’s). With respect to drug issues, a sensitivity gained in part through my service on the Homeless Advocacy Project board of the role of mental health including PTSD especially in veterans and the potential role “specialty” courts can play, e.g., drug court.

Why are you running?

I want to be a judge because I believe serving as a judge will represent the marriage of my vocation of being a lawyer with my avocation of public service. As we know, life sometimes throws one a curveball.  A couple of years ago, I went through a serious illness. I am fortunate to have gotten through it with the love and support of my family and the support of numerous friends and neighbors. When one faces a serious illness in their early 50s, it can change one’s perspective. The way in which the community stepped up for me motivated me to want to give back.

Do you have any known conflicts that would prevent you from hearing a Civil or Criminal case against Sunoco or Energy Transfer Partners? Elaborate.

No known conflicts.

Read more on Steven K. Gerber’s Facebook page.

Note: Steven K. Gerber, Esq. is endorsed by the Delaware County GOP.

Honorable Wendy B. Roberts

Wendy B. Roberts

Judge Wendy B. Roberts is a judge for the Delaware County Magisterial District. She presides over civil trials and criminal preliminary hearings, reviewing and issuing search warrants for law enforcement, setting bail, and overseeing court proceedings and administration. Roberts was previously a partner at Nistico Roberts, PC, and in that practice appeared in Common Pleas Court over 1,000 times. She has been an adjunct professor for 20 years at Delaware Law at Widener University and has worked for 20 years as an arbitrator for the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas. Roberts has over 20 years of courtroom experience and five years of judicial experience, and is the only candidate who is a sitting judge. Roberts received her undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut and her J.D. from the Widener University School of Law.

Wendy Roberts did not respond to H-CAN’s fall 2019 questionnaire.

Responses to H-CAN’s spring 2019 questionnaire:

How will you bring a unique perspective to your impartial role?

I believe that I have more courtroom experience than any other candidate, and I am the only candidate who is a sitting judge. With these unique experiences, I have a fresh perspective on the need for the efficient but thoughtful and thorough administration of justice. My insistence that all who enter my courtroom be treated with respect during all proceedings is something that I intend to continue at the Common Pleas level. Seeing all participants as equals and balancing their rights is at the heart of a truly impartial proceeding.

What experience do you have in the Courts of Common Pleas: Civil, Criminal, Family, Juvenile, or Orphans Courts, in Delaware County or other jurisdictions?

Civil Court of Delaware County and other jurisdictions, 16-20 years
Criminal Court of Delaware County and other jurisdictions,16-20 years
Juvenile Court in Delaware County  and other jurisdictions, 0-1 years
Family Court in Delaware County and other jurisdictions, 1-5 years
Orphans’ Court in Delaware County and other jurisdictions, 0-1 years

What is your view on how the Court of Common Pleas Judiciary can shape criminal justice reform?

As an incumbent judge, the Judicial Code of Conduct limits my ability to take policy positions. However, as I have indicated in my other answers, the fair, impartial, respectful, and compassionate consideration of each case based upon its merit will continue to build the public's trust in our systems as a whole.

Why are you running?

I am running because I know that I will have a positive effect on the Delaware County Court system from both an organizational and a community perspective. I have had the great honor of experiencing first-hand the rippling effects that fair and impartial resolutions of matters have on the community and on the parties, victims, and their families. By treating everyone with respect, handling all matters with integrity, and showing both wisdom and compassion in every proceeding, a judge can make a lasting impression on the lives of all involved. The people of Delaware County deserve to have a judicial system they trust, and I will give them that experience.

Do you have any known conflicts that would prevent you from hearing a Civil or Criminal case against Sunoco or Energy Transfer Partners? Elaborate.

No.

Read more on Wendy B. Robert’s website.

Note: The Honorable Wendy B.  Roberts is endorsed by the Delaware County GOP.