Your guide to all the judicial candidates in the 2021 PA primary

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Why you should care about voting for judges

Photo by Joe Gratz / Flickr
  • They have power: Judges set bail amounts and the length of sentencing. They can also recommend mental health and addiction support services as an alternative to jail.
  • They set the bar: Judges can make and use their rulings to amplify issues, like prison overcrowding and criminal justice reform.
  • They could decide your fate: With over 40 million lawsuits filed every year, there is a chance you or a loved one may come before a judge.

Have more questions? Check out our 2021 PA primary FAQ


Who’s running for judge in PA in 2021

[Editors note: We reached out to all candidates and included answers from the ones who submitted their questionnaire by March 19. For the rest, we culled information from their websites. For the most up-to-date information, including candidate’s endorsements, visit them online.]


Court of Common Pleas Candidates

There are eight vacancies on this court, which is known as a “general trial jurisdiction court,” because the Courts of Common Pleas are organized into 60 judicial districts. This court is responsible for hearing criminal and civil cases, including those involving families and children; hearing appeals from the minor courts and appeals not exclusively assigned to another court; and holding civil, criminal and jury trials.

Sample court cases include divorce, property division, alimony, custody and child support, paternity and protection orders. Here’s who’s running:

Pennsylvania judge candidate Wendi BarishWendi Barish, Democrat

Current position: Senior Deputy General Counsel Acting Vice President of Human Resources for the Philadelphia Housing Authority

Philadelphia Bar rating: Recommended

Zip code: 19106

Barish has a background in employment and civil rights law, and now oversees legal matters for PHA, including issues related to protests over homelessness and police reform. A Democratic Committeeperson since 2017, she ran unsuccessfully for judge in 2017 and 2019. She has served on the boards of several nonprofits, including The Wardrobe and Settlement Music School. Barish, one of three siblings who grew up in the Northeast with a single mother, says she was inspired by the experience of her older sister, who has disabilities, to become a lawyer to “protect the rights of others as well as the civil rights laws which I believe people should never have had to fight for.”

In her words: “I am invested in my community and believe every person deserves to be treated with dignity in the courtroom. I have great respect for the law and feel passionate about applying it equitably and equally. There are several ways I would strive to improve our system of justice. I would do so by recognizing my implicit bias and not allowing it to impact my impartiality. I would also set the tone in the courtroom and ensure all people are treated with respect. In addition, I would continue to be a legal scholar and not render decisions without being fully acquainted with the relevant law. Finally, I would demonstrate the utmost regard for all judicial codes of conduct and ethics.” Read her full questionnaire.

Endorsements: Philadelphia Democratic Party, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 21. State Representatives Mary Isaacson, Malcolm Kenyatta, Joanna McClinton, State Sen. Sharif Street, former Gov. Ed Rendell and City Councilmembers Mark Squilla, Isaiah Thomas, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, 1st, 5th, 8th, 9th, 27th and 30th Ward Democrats, Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks.

PA judicial candidate Terri BookerTerri M. Booker, Democrat

Current position: N/A

Philadelphia Bar rating: Not Recommended

Zip code: N/A

Booker, who worked as an assistant solicitor in the Register of Wills office has worked with the Post-Conviction Project on cases involving falsely-convicte prisoners and has volunteered with Christian Legal Clinic. She volunteers with the Bar Association’s Advancing Civics Education, which brings critical thinking projects into Philly public schools. Since being diagnosed with sickle cell disease in 1994, Booker has become an advocate for people with the illness, and is a co-founder of the Young Adult Sickle Cell Alliance.

Endorsements: N/A​


Democratic judicial candidate Rick CataldiRick Cataldi, Democrat

Current position: Shareholder, Zarwin Baum

Philadelphia Bar rating: Not Recommended

Zip code: 19130

Cataldi, a shareholder in Zarwin Baum’s Personal Injury group, specializes in personal injury and Social Security clients. He grew up in Port Richmond, and attended Temple University, from which he also graduated law school at the age of 35. He was arrested in 1980 on a drug offense, and is a recovering alcoholic—of which he speaks openly—who has been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and sponsored many others on their path to sobriety since 1987. He is a volunteer and contributor for Thanksgiving and Christmas events for families in need, and says he is most proud of the efforts he and his wife have made to adopt and protect two young girls who were abused in foster care.

In his words: I would strive to change how matters of this type are handled, with the end goal of maintaining family unity, while protecting the best interests of the children…There are issues out of the court’s control that need to be addressed—poverty, mental illness, fragmented homes, food deprivation, and on and on. I’m not quite sure how, as a judge, I can affect the changes. However, I will work diligently to find, implement, and shepherd the appropriate changes, on a case by case basis, until a solution-based system is in place.” Read his full questionnaire.

PA judicial candidate Christopher HallChris Hall, Democrat

Current position: White Collar criminal defense and government litigation practice.

Philadelphia Bar rating: Highly recommended

Zip code: 19118

For the past 15 years, Chris Hall has had his own white collar criminal defense and government litigation practice. Before that, he worked in the Justice Department, for whom he brought the first environmental justice prosecution in Pennsylvania, against a a corporate asbestos dumper who had violated the Clean Air Act, achieving a $1.5 million settlement for residents whose homes in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood of Southwest Philly were damaged; and the first predatory lending prosecution in the state, to stop mortgage brokers and banks preying on communities of color in North Philadelphia. Outside of work, Hall, along with his wife, co-founded Breakthrough Bike Challenge, which raises about $300,000 a year for Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center.

In his own words: “As the grandson, son, husband, and parent of teachers, I have been taught —and now seek to pass on—the importance of fairness. That is why I am running to serve as a Judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas—to ensure equal justice is served for all and to fight systemic racism and sexism within the judicial system.” Read his full questionnaire.

Endorsements: Philadelphia Democratic Party

PA judicial candidate Michelle HangleyMichele Hangley, Democrat

Current position: Lawyer, Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller

Philadelphia Bar rating: Highly Recommended

Zip code: 19147

Michelle Hangley was one of the lead attorneys defending Pennsylvania and local election officials in more than 20 lawsuits stemming from the 2020 election, and in the 2018 lawsuit over congressional redistricting.

The rest of her practice is divided between legal malpractice cases and a variety of corporate, environmental and civil rights issues. Hangley has served on the board of the Nationalities Service Center, and been a member of several civic and school groups, including Bella Vista Neighbors’ Association.

Hangley, a single mother who grew up in Philly attending public schools, was one of the “Central Six”—the first girls (controversially) admitted to Central High School just before her senior year. She says that experience is key to the work she has done, and takes as her role model for judge The Honorable William Marutani, whose ruling on the case opened the doors to all genders.

In her words: “Judge Marutani’s opinion was precise, careful, and thorough… I believe that a ruling that reached the same result, but seemed unfair or one-sided, would have fanned the flames and made the situation worse for all involved. From this, I learned first hand that a judge’s appearance of fairness and impartiality is more than just a good in itself; it has a concrete, positive effect on the way that litigants and the public respond to the judge’s decisions.” Read her full questionnaire.

Endorsements: State Sen. Nikil Saval

PA judicial candidate Maurice HoustonMaurice Houston, Democrat

Current position: Attorney in private practice

Philadelphia Bar rating: Not Recommended

Zip code: 19144

Houston has served as a vice president for Reliance Trust Company of Delaware, a senior counsel for the Philadelphia Housing Authority, staff attorney for Regional Housing Legal Services and Legislative Counsel for Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas. A lifelong Philadelphian, he is the youngest of six kids, and graduated from Philly public schools. He is President of the Philly chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, and past president of the Philadelphia Club of Frontiers International, an African American youth service organization.

In his words: “The message I would give to the youth when they’re coming into the courtroom is to be honest, take advantage of the opportunity if you need the help. This is an opportunity… rather than look at it as punishment, let’s see what you really need to be successful.” Houston did not submit a questionnaire.

Endorsement: N/A

PA judicial candidate Nick KamauNick Kamau, Democrat

Current position: Attorney with Legis Group LLC

Philadelphia Bar rating: Highly Recommended

Zip code: 19131

Kamau served as a public defender, then a prosecutor, before turning to civil litigation with a focus on personal injury, civil rights and civil defense. He served as Democratic counsel for the Congressional Oversight and Government Reform Committee under Congressman Elijah Cummings during President Obama’s tenure, where he worked on voter protection, and the Affordable Care Act. He volunteers at his church.

In his words: “I firmly believe the pursuit of justice is one of the most noble.” Kamau did not submit a questionnaire.

Endorsements: Democratic City Committee, Second Generation PAC

PA judicial candidate Craig LevinCraig Levin, Democrat

Current position: Senior Partner, Friedman & Levin Associates

Philadelphia Bar rating: Recommended

Zip code: 19103

Previous Public Office Position: Former 8th Ward Committeeperson and Judge of Elections

Levin estimates that he has handled more than 2,000 cases, mostly civil litigation, including personal injury, estate issues, family law, real estate and employment and contract disputes. Levin is Chair of the Legal Department at the Philadelphia Democratic Party and has been a Committee Person in the 8th Ward, and is also an arbitrator for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, which means that he serves on a panel with other lawyers to make judgements on civil cases of $50,000 or less.

He serves on the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association, is a member of Louis D. Brandeis Law Society, Justinian Society, NAACP, Philadelphia Trial Lawyers, Pennsylvania Association for Justice, and New Jersey Association for Justice. Levin is also on the board of the Community Forgiveness and Restoration Initiative, and has served for 10 years as pro-bono counsel to S.A.L.E.A, an organization that supports Philadelphia’s Spanish-American community, and is a volunteer attorney for the SeniorLaw Center.

In his words: “Not only are we coming into a post pandemic world, forever transformed, but we are entering a new era where equity disparity, fairness, impartiality, and a true understanding of the meaning of these concepts are more important than ever. On top of all these challenges, the significant backlog of cases in our courts has become worse due to the shutdown caused by Covid-19. As an attorney I have always taken a practical, yet detailed approach to my cases. As a judge, I will continue that approach and take an active interest in the cases that I am assigned to help reduce the backlog of cases. In my experience, when a judge takes a noticeably active interest in a case, it has helped all parties and made it more likely that matter would resolve prior to trial.” Read his full questionnaire.

Endorsements: Philadelphia Democratic Party, Sheet Metal Workers Local no. 19, IBEW Local 98, Teamsters Local 830, State Senator Sharif Street, and Councilmember Isaiah Thomas.

PA judicial candidate Cateria McCabeCateria R. McCabe, Democrat

Current position: (Appointed) Judge in the Juvenile Branch of Family Court

Philadelphia Bar rating: Recommended

Zip code: 19150

Previous Public Office Position: Committeeperson 2001-2002; Arraignment Court Magistrate August–December 2019.

As a judge in the Juvenile Branch of Family Court, McCabe hears dependency cases of abused, neglected or truant children; her job is to protect children and preserve families. Immediately prior to her appointment to the bench in 2019, she was an Arraignment Court Magistrate. Before that, she practiced law for almost 30 years, including as an Army JAG. McCabe has worked in private practice, public interest, and for the City of Philadelphia and has served as an arbitrator. She ran unsuccessfully for judge in 2003, 2005 and 2019.

In her words: “In addition to being a legal advocate for my clients, I am committed to efforts to achieve systemic changes that impact many to improve the lives of people who I will never meet. While I have been active in community service organizations, participation in advocacy is my passion. The need for community service is great but systemic changes though effective advocacy will help alleviate the need for community service. It is with this spirit that I seek to serve the citizens of Philadelphia.” Read her full questionnaire.

Endorsements: Philadelphia Democratic Party

PA judicial candidate Mark MooreMark Moore, Democrat

Current position: Court of Common Pleas Judge (appointed 2020)

Philadelphia Bar rating: Highly Recommended

Zip code: 19128

Moore was appointed to the Court of Common Pleas by Governor Wolf in July, 2020 and took the bench in September. He was previously a trial attorney who worked as an Assistant District Attorney and as a civil defense counsel for Allstate. Moore, who had a brief stint as a journalist, is an active member—with his wife—of New Covenant Church of Philadelphia, and for 10 years was a board member of Northwest Victim Services, which works with crime victims in the 5th, 14th, 35th and 39th Police Districts.

In his words: “I have the fairness, experience, and temperament to serve the citizens of Philadelphia as a Judge. In addition, we need more qualified Judges of color on the bench. Since taking the bench this past September, however, I have had the pleasure of deciding cases or controversies sitting in the Criminal Division of the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia County. It has been a pleasure to preside over cases presented by an exceptionally fine and talented group of lawyers here in the city. It is even more special because some of these attorneys were my former colleagues and adversaries when I was a practicing trial attorney. ” Read his full questionnaire.

Endorsements: Democratic City Committee

Patrick J. Moran, Democrat

Current position: N/A

Philadelphia Bar rating: Not Recommended

Zip code: N/A

Endorsements: N/A

No website found.

PA judicial candidate john padovaJohn R. Padova, Democrat

Current position: Court of Common Pleas Judge

Philadelphia Bar rating: Highly Recommended

Zip code: 19103

Padova was appointed as a judge in the Court of Common Pleas by Gov. Wolf in January, 2020; he serves in the criminal division. Previously, he was a civil attorney, handling cases of injury, liability, motor vehicle crashes, workers compensation, discrimination, wrongful termination, and commercial litigation in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Padova has had a few minor controversies: He received a tax lien from the state Department of Revenue in November, 2019, which he attributes to miscommunication from his accountant and says he paid later that month. He was sued by a client in 2011 (the case was settled), and was a plaintiff in a couple of lawsuits to secure payment, which were settled in his favor. Padova says he believes It is essential to recognize and address implicit bias in the justice system and in society. Read his full questionnaire.

In his words: “With regard to improving our system of justice, I believe the system should foster a more comprehensive program in working to provide employment opportunities to ex-offenders who are on probation or parole in order to provide them with better opportunities to reenter society. Establishing programs to make connections with potential employers and ex-offenders along with providing guidance in handling financial affairs and life’s stress would promote a more successful transition into society for ex-offenders.”

Endorsements: IBEW 98, National Union of Hospital and Healthcare Employees District 1199C, Sheet Metal Workers Local 19, Sprinkler Fitters Local 692, Councilman Isaiah Thomas, Senator Vincent Hughes, Senator John Sabatina Jr.

PA judicial candidate Dan SulmanDaniel Sulman, Democrat

Current position: Court of Common Pleas Judge

Philadelphia Bar rating: Recommended

Zip code: 19119

Previous Public Office Position: Member of the Board of Revision of Taxes, Judge of Common Pleas, Master in Support in the Domestic Relations Division

Sulman has served in various capacities in the courts, including as a Master, where he says he presided over 10,000 child and spousal support hearings. Gov. Wolf appointed him as a judge in 2016. Three years later, he returned to private practice, focusing on representing low- and middle-income clients in family law cases, until again being appointed in late 2019 as a Common Pleas Court judge. During the pandemic, Sulman served as a judge for emergency child custody and protection from abuse cases.

In his own words: “A judge should conduct proceedings with patience, proper judicial temperament, and respect for the dignity of all who enter the courtroom.” Sulman did not submit a questionnaire.

Endorsements: State Rep. Mike Driscoll, 1st, 5th, 8th, 9th, 27th and 30th Ward Democrats, Philadelphia Democratic Party, State Sen. Jared Solomon, International Union of Operating Engineers, Sheet Metal Workers Local Union, Councilperson Derek Green, the Metal Trades Council, and District Council 33.

PA judicial candidate Caroline TurnerCaroline Turner, Democrat

Current position: Trial attorney, Swartz Culleton

Philadelphia Bar rating: Recommended

Zip code: 19147

Turner was a public defender in New Jersey for 11 years, primarily working on felony cases, before joining  Swartz Culleton PC as a malpractice plaintiffs attorney. Turner’s first career was as a registered nurse in England. Later, while living in Spain, she was moved by the atrocities of the Bosnian-Serbian conflict, helped raise funds for a refugee camp and accompanied a humanitarian mission to Bosnia. She says that experience inspired her to return to school, so she could fight injustices through the practice of law. A single mother of four children, Turner volunteers regularly with Sharing Excess and Good Shepherd Mediation’s Housing Eviction program.

In her own words: “As judge, I feel it is my duty to work on three main priorities, ending cash bail, bringing greater transparency to the courtroom, and focusing on restorative justice that ensures the courts are helping to heal the community while balancing justice with love and compassion.” Read her full questionnaire.

Endorsements: Sharing Excess, Swartz Culleton PC, Jensen Bagnato PC, The Thistle Law Firm PC, West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative, Reps. Malcolm Kenyatta, Regina Young and Rick Krajewski, 1st, 2nd and 22nd Ward Democrats, PA Working Families Party, Michael Doyle, Esq., Reclaim Philadelphia, Millennials in Action, Black Clergy of Philadelphia

PA judicial candidate Tamika WashingtonTamika Washington, Democrat

Current position: Principal Attorney, Law Offices of Tamika Washington, P.C.

Philadelphia Bar rating: Recommended

Zip code: 19119

Washington began her legal career focused on employment discrimination, then worked for four years as an Assistant City Solicitor, where she defended the Department of Human Services in matters regarding children who were neglected and abused. Washington opened her own law office 11 years ago, and focuses primarily on employment discrimination, real estate and probate, with a particular focus on helping clients get back their homes after a fraudulent deed transfer. She has also served as an arbitrator for 10 years. Washington sits on the board of directors for homelessness-fighting nonprofit My Place Germantown and is the co-founder of legal ministry at Sharon Baptist Church.

In her words: “I would improve our system of justice by a faithful commitment to applying the facts of each case to the law, and following the precedents of higher courts in a nonpartisan fashion without regard to what the parties look like or identify with. The Center for Urban and Racial Equity has documented the culture of nepotism, mistrust and racial tensions in the courts. I want parties who appear before me to be assured that I would administer justice fairly, and perform my duties in a manner that ensures that each litigant, no matter their race, sex, identity or beliefs, will receive a fair trial.” Read her full questionnaire.

Endorsements: N/A

PA judge candidate Betsy WahlBetsy Wahl, Democrat

Current position: Juvenile Court Hearing Officer

Philadelphia Bar rating: Recommended

Zip code: 19130

Wahl has spent 35 years serving in Philadelphia’s courts, including as a public defender and, since 2002, as a Hearing Officer in Juvenile Court, where she presides over dispositions, probation reviews and violations, and other delinquency matters. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Wahl went to law school and worked at Harvard University’s Prisoner Assistance Program before returning to Philadelphia. She has presided over the city’s Graduated Response Court, designed to turn juveniles around without resorting to long-term placement, and has visited nearly all of Philadelphia’s juvenile placements and programs. Outside of work, Wahl has been a tutor for Project Home and a volunteer “Buddy” for Action Wellness.

In her own words: “I consider it an honor to be entrusted to make the right decisions- and I work tirelessly to do so. I am running for judge to enable me to do more of what I do now. I would certainly bring the qualities I use as a Hearing Officer to a Judgeship. I have the energy and passion to do more, and would welcome the opportunity.” Read her full questionnaire.

Endorsements: Democratic City Committee


Philadelphia Municipal Court Candidates

There are three vacancies on the Philadelphia Municipal Court, which is responsible for determining whether serious criminal cases go to the Court of Common Pleas; preliminary arraignments and hearings; and setting and accepting bail, except in murder or voluntary manslaughter cases.

Some sample court cases include traffic tickets, landlord-tenant disputes, underage drinking. Here’s who’s running:

PA judicial candidate Michael LambertMichael Lambert, Democrat

Current position: Law Office of Michael Lambert LLC

Philadelphia Bar rating: Not Recommended

Zip code: 19149

After law school at Temple University, Lambert worked as a public defender, before opening his own firm specializing in personal injury, family, and criminal litigation. He has been practicing law for about 20 years. He is a member of Liberty Temple Church, and has been involved with the basketball camp of the Thomas & Woods Foundation, co-founded by Councilmember Isaiah Thomas.

In his own words: “Years of practice that has taken me to both federal and state courts continually championing the causes of the everyday average citizen gives me the clear competence to run a courtroom. More importantly, as a Jamaican-American male my life experience will bring the necessary common-sense yet compassionate and insightful life experiences to be able to fashion equitable solutions to a myriad of situations.” Read his full questionnaire.

Endorsements: Democrat City Committee, Council Member Isaiah Thomas

PA judicial candidate Barbara ThomsonBarbara Thomson, Democrat

Current position: President, Principal, Thomson Consulting

Philadelphia Bar rating: Not Recommended

Zip code: 19118

Previous public office position: Committeeperson

Thomson began her career at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, then worked her way up to the executive level at the MTA New York City Transit—the largest subway and bus system in the country—before moving to Philadelphia 20 years ago.

Thomson has served as an arbitrator for the Philadelphia Courts; and says she helped set up the Philly ID Card, a secure and affordable ID card for Philadelphia residents; the Hub of Hope, a homeless shelter at City Hall; and SEPTA’s Key Card.

She is an active member of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, and has been involved with the Self-Help Movement rehab center and with A.S. Jenks School Home and School Association.

Thomson, who is married to Bob Previdi—former City Council President Anna Verna’s communications director—says she is inspired to become a judge by her father, Judge Joseph Thomson, who at 49 years is the longest-serving town judge in New York state.

In her own words: “As Municipal Court Judge, I will understand that this may be the first time someone comes into contact with a court. I want everybody’s experience in court to be as positive as possible—meaning that you feel you are being heard and treated with the respect and fairness you deserve—no matter who you are or why you’re in court. In our city, we are adapting to radical changes and we must never lose sight of the individual. It is something my parents inspired in me and something I’d like to share with you as your Municipal Court Judge in Philadelphia.” Read her full questionnaire.

Endorsements: n/a

George Twardy, pa judicial candidateGeorge Twardy, Democrat

Current position: Common Pleas Court judge

Philadelphia Bar rating: Recommended

Zip code: 19145

Twardy was appointed to the family division of Common Pleas Court in June 2020, after running a private practice that focused on worker’s compensation, personal injury, criminal defense and administrative law. He has also served as a custody hearing officer and truancy hearing officer in the First Judicial Court.

In his words: “At a time when public confidence in our justice system is at an all time low, I am committed to bringing integrity and fairness to the bench.” Twardy did not submit a questionnaire.

Endorsements: International Union of Operating Engineers, Sheet Metal Workers Local Union, Sprinkler Fitters Local, International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Greg Yorgey-Girdy, candidate for judge in PAGregory Yorgey-Girdy, Democrat

Current position: Lawyer, Potter Anderson Corroon LLP

Philadelphia Bar rating: Recommended

Zip code: 19145

Previous Public Office Position: Democratic Committeeperson for the 48th Ward

Yorgey-Girdy began his professional career working for the City of Philadelphia as an Assistant City Solicitor in the Claims Unit before joining the firm Potter Anderson Corroon LLP, where he led the firm’s conflict management efforts. Yorgey-Girdy has been a fierce advocate for often marginalized communities including the LGBT+ community and people of color in Philadelphia. He has been involved with several civic groups, including PhillySetGo, Liberty City Democratic Club, West Passyunk Neighborhood Association, First District Police Advisory Committee and as a lead organizer for the Philly Queer March for Black Lives. In January, Yorgey-Girdy penned an op-ed for the Inquirer making the case that 2021’s judicial elections are crucial for racial justice.

In his own words: “As the father of three young, mixed race children, I have been driven to do whatever I can to create the world I believe they deserve—a world where they are not in danger, much less treated unfairly because of the color of their skin… I am running for judge because I believe I would be an effective and outspoken advocate for a change to court culture that takes into account the red flags raised by the CURE report. I am committed to working toward a transparent and fair court system that celebrates diverse judges and staff and that inspires trust among those the court intends to serve.” Read his full questionnaire.

Endorsements: Philadelphia Democratic Party, The Victory Fund, PA State Representative, Malcolm Kenyatta, PA State Representative Brian Sims

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