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
Johns Hopkins University, MPA (expected graduation date May 2022);
Case Western Reserve School of Law, JD;
Adelphi University, BS in Business Management
Licensed to practice law in PA, NY, and CA. Have been practicing law for over a decade.
District Court 15-2-07 is not located in a higher crime area and most offenses are drug, alcohol, and mental health-related with some domestic violence. To that end, many offenders in this Court may be better served by having the opportunity to rehabilitate and treat the root of their issue as opposed to a punishment that is simply punitive in nature. The hope is that upon completing one of the below programs, the offender will have the tools to keep from reoffending. The top three programs I feel further this goal are: 1) Recovery Court which is a drug and alcohol treatment-based court program for offenders in need of long term, highly structured drug and alcohol treatment and supervision; 2) Mental Health Court provides treatment, support and stability to justice for offenders who struggle with Serious and Persistent Mental Illness; and 3) the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program which is a pre-trial diversion program for individuals with limited or no prior record who are deemed eligible by the District Attorney.
All individuals carry some level of bias and even when we work to eliminate our biases, unconscious biases can still remain. These remaining biases can unconsciously influence a judge’s sentencing decisions. The key to creating a more fair and equitable court is to be aware of the potential for bias and to take steps to lessen their effects. To begin with, on the bench judges must be transparent in their decision making, consistent in their sentencing, and critical of plea bargains that on their face suggest bias. Being transparent means issuing decisions that are detailed and well-reasoned so that all that wish to, can review the decisions to ensure the judge is sentencing consistently across all similar defendants. In addition, judges should ensure that defendants that agree to plea bargains are being offered similar terms by sending plea bargains that are inconsistent back to the District Attorney’s office for further review.
With regard to cash bail, it is incumbent on judges to thoroughly review pre-sentence investigation reports which include a review of factors such as a Defendant’s prior record, prior probation/parole, and institutional history, family and marital history, health (physical, mental, emotional), education, employment, financial conditions, and victim information. Based on the investigation’s findings, and in accordance with Pennsylvania law, cash bail should only be imposed when a defendant poses a risk to the community and/or no other bail option can ensure that the defendant returns to court. Alternate cash bail options include release on recognizance, suspended bail (meaning bail is set but does not have to be paid so long as the defendant complies with the court’s orders and attends all hearings), and electronic monitoring.
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