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Chester County Magisterial District Judge 15-1-02

Magisterial district judges (MDJs) do not have to be lawyers but are required to pass a qualifying exam. They handle civil cases up to $12,000; responsible for whether serious criminal cases go the Court of Common Pleas; handle preliminary arraignments and hearings; minor criminal offenses, traffic citations and non-traffic ordinance violations. They are responsible for setting and accepting bail, except in murder or voluntary manslaughter cases. Term of office: 6 years. Salary: $93.338

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  • Candidate picture

    Mackenzie W. Smith

  • Candidate picture

    Thomas W. Tartaglio

Información Biográfica

Q. What are the top three programs that you support for alternate sentencing aimed at keeping people out of the prison systems?

Q. What can you do both on and off the bench to support a more fair and equitable court system regarding cash bail, plea bargaining, and sentencing.

Education Tulane University, BA 2005 in Italian and Linguistics (magna cum laude); Middlebury College, MA 2006 in Italian Studies; Temple University Beasley School of Law, JD 2009 (cum laude)
Qualifications I am the only candidate for District Judge 15-1-02 who possesses a law degree. I believe that judges at all levels of the judiciary should be legal experts, because knowledge of the law, the Constitution, and the rules of evidence and procedure are critical to the preservation of individual rights, due process, and democracy. In short, judges should be lawyers. Additionally, I am the only candidate who has practiced in both the criminal justice system (as a prosecutor at the Chester County District Attorney’s Office and as a defense and civil rights attorney, representing those accused of crimes) and the civil justice system (I have represented clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to a newborn baby born into the foster care system, in courts ranging from district court all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court). Finally, I am the only candidate who has represented parties on both sides of the law: the prosecution/plaintiffs and the defense. This experience makes me the candidate with the broadest, most impartial perspective.
Facebook Facebook.com/mwsformdj
Diversionary programs such as Mental Health Court, Drug Court, and Veterans’ Court play a critical role in the criminal justice system and in the lives of those admitted into the programs. It is absolutely crucial that the people working in the system – police officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, and of course judges – acknowledge and hold sacred the humanity and dignity of those accused of crimes. Oftentimes, individuals who are coming into the criminal justice system lack the support networks that we all need in order to thrive, and diversionary programs are one mechanism (among others) that we can put in place to avoid or at least minimize incarceration and provide some sort of support network.

The Magisterial District Courts do not oversee these essential programs, but there is an opportunity for District Judges to fulfill their own role as part of a social support network. First, District Judges must commit to administering preliminary and bail hearings impartially, providing a full and fair opportunity for the accused to be heard and/or advocated for (within the confines of Fifth Amendment considerations), and furthering their own education on trauma-informed systems. Second, District Judges can employ their own form of alternate sentencing in summary cases, such as disorderly conduct citations. Many of these cases provide an ideal opportunity for community service as an alternative to a monetary fine. Community service not only helps an (often young) individual with little or no criminal history avoid financial penalties, but also creates a connection between the individual and their community. A District Judge who is trauma-informed and committed to listening to all the facts and circumstances of a given case, no matter how “small,” can employ other alternatives to a traditional sentence on a case-by-case basis. Third, District Judges can and should seek to improve the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice, as set forth in Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Conduct 3.4, to ensure that diversionary programs are run effectively and efficiently.

If I am elected as District Judge, I will take an oath to follow the law of Pennsylvania and the Constitution of the United States, including the factors set forth in the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure regarding bail and plea bargains. Magisterial District Judges are required by Pennsylvania law to interpret and apply the law without regard to whether the magisterial district judge approves or disapproves of the law in question, and to keep an open mind and carry out their adjudicative duties faithfully and impartially. If elected, I will follow the law and honor my commitment to rule impartially, permit every party a full and fair opportunity to be heard, and seek to continually improve my own education in all areas relevant to my judicial duties. I will always seek to keep an open mind, listen to all the facts, and apply the law fairly and impartially to all parties who come before me.

Magisterial district judges are permitted to participate in activities that promote public understanding of and confidence in the administration of justice, including appearing before governmental bodies and officials in connection with matters concerning the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice, and engaging in civic outreach and education. If elected, I will seek to improve the law and the justice system by engaging in such activities. I have sought to do this both before my campaign – through, among other things, service as a volunteer child advocate, membership on the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania pro bono honor roll, and service on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania prisoner civil rights panel – and throughout my campaign, as a judge for the 2021 Pennsylvania High School Mock Trial Championship and through my Supreme Court education webinar, accessible at https://www.mwsformdj.com/in-the-news. If elected, I will continue and deepen my commitment to civic education in our community and seek to improve the justice system so that it efficiently and effectively serves all members of our community.
Education B.S. Criminal Justice, West Chester University; Magisterial Judge Certification, PA Supreme Court; M.S. Criminal Justice Admin-Organizational Leadership, Colorado State University
Qualifications 24 years in the Chester County Justice System; 12 years Judicial experience; Lived up to my oath to be fair & impartial
Facebook @judge_tartaglio
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Chester County has a wide range of diversionary programs at the Court of Common Pleas level. Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). This first-time, nonviolent program provides the most flexibility for defendants to take a level of responsibility and avoid trial. Drug Court, this intensive supervision program, touting a high record of success at reducing recidivism in addicts. Women’s Reentry Assessment & Programming Initiative (WRAP) integrates gender-responsive, risk/need assessment/supervision programs in collaboration with community case management to reduce recidivism, decrease technical violations and increase the health and well-being of justice-involved women and their family members.
Bail: I delve deep during the arraignment process calculating financial means. Non-monetary bail conditions are just as constructive by keeping the defendant employed or with family creating stability. Plea Bargaining: I use restorative justice measures when all parties wish to participate. Many of my bail orders incorporate treatment/counseling rather than incarceration. Sentencing: District Judges are very limited in sentencing range by statute and do not have the authority to deviate unless the laws specified a higher penalty for consecutive offenses.