Fairness & Impartiality
The foundation of what a Magistrate District Judge must do is provide fair, impartial, and unbiased legal oversight. When a member of the community comes before the Magistrate Judge, they deserve to know that they will be heard without worrying that their Magistrate can’t maintain impartiality. To ensure that our community will never have to worry about this, I am refusing to take any financial contributions from Pennsylvania attorneys, landlord companies, and big business. When someone steps foot into our Magistrate Court they will know they are going to be treated fairly by me.
City Court Reform
Currently, all city Magistrates hear all criminal preliminary hearings downtown at Pittsburgh Municipal Court (commonly referred to as City Court). This is posing many disadvantages to our community. There are many failure to appear warrants issued because individuals do not show up for their preliminary hearing. However, for many members of the community who are charged with a low level misdemeanor by summons, getting to City Court is a major road block. When so much of our non-violent crime has underlying issues of poverty, addiction, and mental health, it is not surprising that individuals have a hard time getting to their hearings downtown. If elected, I will lead the conversation and work to have the city Magistrates hear non-violent misdemeanor preliminary hearings at the local Magistrate offices. This would remove a road block for the members of our community, whom often are dealing with so much more behind the scenes. I will work to address the issues that accompany non-violent misdemeanor crime, like addiction, mental health, and poverty. I will hear these cases with concern and compassion for the members of our community.
Our Magistrate District Judge should be a resource to the community. A Magistrate can only be a resource if they are accessible. I understand that many members of our community do not have the time or flexibility in their schedule during the 9-5 work day. I will ensure that once a week our Magistrate court would be open after work hours for “Night Court.” Additionally, the Magistrate should be a resource for this community. I will encourage and host town hall forums on important issues in our community, and host legal workshops so people living in our district know their rights; know the laws; and know the processes of court proceedings.
I do not believe in using discretionary fines to continue a cycle of poverty in indigent populations of our community. Our criminal justice system should not be a tool to increase revenue.
I don’t believe in using cash bail to punish members of the community who are already socioeconomically disadvantaged. I acknowledge that cash bail has been used as a tool of destruction to harm, discriminate, and oppress individuals. Historically, cash bail has disproportionately been used to discriminate and harm our black and brown communities. I will never use cash bail to harm a person or discriminate against anyone. However, it is important to note the complexities of cash bail in our current criminal justice system.
First it is important to understand the four common types of bail. (1) Release on Recognizance (ROR) allows for individuals to be released into the community until their next hearing. (2) Release on non-monetary conditions allows for individuals to be released into the community until the next hearing, but sets conditions a defendant must comply with such as drug and alcohol or mental health evaluations and treatment. (3) Release on monetary conditions or unsecured bail bond (cash bail) allows an individual to be released into the community if they can meet the monetary condition set. (4) No bail keeps individuals in jail until their next hearing date.
To say “no cash bail” is not progressive. Advocating for ” No Cash Bail” may sound progressive, but it actually imposes unproductive limits on the Magistrate. There are times when cash bail is an arrow in the quiver for a judge, and can even be used to benefit a Defendant. For example, if a Defendant is on probation from a criminal conviction and is arrested and charged for a new crime, they often will be placed in jail on the probation violation until the new criminal charge has been resolved. If a Magistrate sets bail for the new criminal charge as ROR or non monetary conditions then the Defendant will not have any credit time accrue on the new case as they sit in jail on the probation violation. In the alternative, if the Magistrate sets a cash bail for the Defendant on the new case then the Defendant can accrue credit time on the new case while waiting for their hearing on the new case and probation violation.
I will always set appropriate bail to ensure each person in the proceeding – defendant, victim, and the community at large – is treated fairly and with compassion.
Everyone deserves to feel safe in their home and walking the streets of their neighborhood. I will bring law enforcement and struggling communities together to work towards strengthening our neighborhoods. The number of illegal guns on our streets continues to rise. Violent crime rises as well. As a community, we need to commit to standing up against the violence in our streets. I will focus our efforts on taking guns off our streets, getting illegal narcotic drug manufacturing operations shut down, and getting drug dealers selling heroin and fentanyl off our streets. We owe it to our kids to ensure that our community is safe.
Making sure our children are attending school and receiving an education has to be a top priority. If elected, I will work to ensure that any truancy proceedings will be conducted outside school hours or at the school. We should never be taking children out of school for a proceeding caused by habitual missed attendance. Additionally, I will not issue fines to parents who face truancy actions. This creates additional road blocks and disadvantages for our families. Instead, we need to use these cases to address issues the family faces and provide our children with the support and programming they need to excel in the classroom.
Being evicted is a traumatic event for a family or individual to go through. Behind many evictions are stories of struggle, addiction, mental health issues, abuse, and economic hardship. As a community, and as a Magistrate, we must be willing to facilitate a process to navigate housing conflicts with the goal of keeping community members in their home. A Magistrate must also be fair and impartial. They must listen to both sides equally. I will listen to both tenants and landlords and would always remain fair and impartial. I believe that we can use dispute resolution methods such as mediation to help resolve many of our housing conflicts and ensure that all parties are not just listened to, but truly heard.