Dear Neighbors,

The Ward is endorsing the following candidates:

Jim Kenney
Mayor of Philadelphia

Ronald R. Donatucci
Register of Wills

Malika Rahman

Kahlil Williams
City Commissioner

Helen Gym
City Council At Large

Allan Domb
City Council At Large

Derek Green
City Council At Large

Eryn Santamoor
City Council At Large

Justin Diberardinis
City Council At Large

Darrell L. Clarke
District Council 5

Kenyatta Johnson
District Council 2

Ward Judicial Endorsements

Overview of this Judicial Election Cycle

From a crowded field of at least 30 candidates, Philadelphia voters will nominate nine (9) Democratic candidates for judicial office:  six (6) Judges on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas (from a field of 25), one (1) Judge on the Philadelphia Municipal Court, and two (2) Judges on the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Superior and Common Pleas Court Judges are elected for 10-year terms and Municipal Court Judges are elected for six-year terms.

A recent Sunday Inquirer featured an editorial on the power and importance of local judges:

“The stakes: Judges have tremendous discretion in both criminal and civil matters. The First Judicial District, the organizing body of courts in Philadelphia administered by judges, can influence policy. For example, in the fall, the FJD rescinded its policy of withholding bail fees from defendants that showed up in court or even had the charges against them dropped. Similarly, over the summer Mayor Jim Kenney was under pressure to end the arrest data sharing agreement between the city and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — an agreement the court was party to but didn’t communicate their own position. Also notable: Family court judges are assigned from the Common Pleas Court. Those judges are the ones who remand children to centers like the recently closed Glen Mills. The upshot: Judges at all levels have the power to directly impact many lives. ”

Our Judicial Endorsement Team Process

The Team interviewed at least 30 judicial candidates on behalf of our Ward, over 4 weeks, and reviewed hundreds of pages of printed materials.  Absent extraordinary and unique circumstances, it is the 8th Ward’s tradition to defer candidates who do not participate in the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Judicial Selection and Retention Process, and to discourage endorsement of judicial candidates who are deemed “not recommended” by the Philadelphia or Pennsylvania Bar Association.  After countless hours of interviews and candidate material review, the Team conferred to rank and recommend candidates to present to our Ward colleagues for the endorsement vote on April 17.  

List of Judicial Candidates Recommended for Ward Endorsement

We include reports on each recommended candidate, following this list.    

A) Superior Court  (Voters may select 2)

#2 Daniel D. McCaffery: Rated “Highly Recommended” by the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the only candidate for this office to be so rated. 

**We do not endorse a second candidate for this office because the three other Democratic candidates are “not recommended” by the Bar.

B) Judge of the Municipal Court

#29 David H. Conroy

C) Judge of the Court of Common Pleas (Voters may select 6)

The Judicial Committee recommends eight (8) total candidates: four (4) for “super endorsement” and an additional four (4) for your consideration. 

Since we can vote for 6 judges, why do we recommend super-endorsing 4 and including another 4 for a total of 8?  Because we want voters to consider the possibility of “bullet voting,” i.e. voting for only 4 judges to increase the chance that those 4 will win. The four candidates we are super-endorsing are all excellent candidates who have bad ballot positions, so to win, they will need help in overcoming the disadvantage of bad ballot positions.  However, we also are also recommending 4 other good candidates who are worthy of your support, should you wish to vote for six. This gives you the opportunity to choose among the additional 4 recommended candidates.

Four Recommended for “Super Endorsement” – THE FABULOUS FOUR:

#19. Anthony Kyriakakis **rated “Highly Recommended” by the Philadelphia Bar

#21. Henry McGregor Sias 

#23. Tiffany Palmer **rated “Highly Recommended” by the Philadelphia Bar

#27.  Kay Yu


#4.  Jennifer Schultz

#11. Leon Goodman

#20. Chris Hall

#25. James F. Berardinelli

#6. Craig Levin

**Please note that only two candidates, Anthony Kyriakakis and Tiffany Palmer, were rated “Highly Recommended” by the Philadelphia Bar Association, which describes the criteria as follows: “This evaluation shall be made for those extraordinary individuals who are being considered for election or appointment to a designated court and who, in addition to meeting the criteria set forth in Section II.B.1 (I.e., criteria to be “recommended”) are preeminent in the profession, exceptionally skilled in the law, possess a reputation for the utmost integrity and significantly will enhance or have enhanced the quality of the judiciary.”

Reports on Recommended Candidates

A) Superior Court 

#2 Daniel D. McCaffery:  Rated “Highly Recommended” by the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the only candidate for this office to be so rated. On the PA Bar website, they wrote “The candidate is an experienced jurist known for his high degree of professionalism and good judicial temperament. He is engaging, sincere, intelligent and affable with an admirable work ethic. His legal career has taken several paths. He served as an assistant district attorney for five years and then was in private practice for 16 years. The candidate has served as a common pleas court judge since 2014. He has a sound knowledge of legal principles, with his opinions and legal writings being well-reasoned. He also has extensive community involvement, including volunteering as a coach for the past 20 years. Because of his broad experience as a practicing attorney, proven record of judicial leadership, high ethical standards and dedication to the legal profession, the commission is confident that the candidate would serve with distinction as a Superior Court judge and highly recommends his candidacy. ”

B) Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas

Four for “Super Endorsement”

#19. Anthony Kyriakakisone of two candidates on the ballot rated “Highly Recommended by the Philadelphia Bar Association.  The son of Greek immigrants, Anthony was the first in his family to go to college.  He was given a scholarship from his father’s union (the Teamsters) which enabled him to attend Yale University.  After graduation with honors from Yale, he went on to Harvard Law School  

His legal career has been extensive and varied. He clerked for Judge Fuentes of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, worked for three years at a law firm handling complex civil cases, and then worked for 8 years at the US. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, where he focused on fraud by corporations and executives, child exploitation, and violent crimes.  Since 2015 he has been an adjunct professor at both Penn and Temple Law Schools and in private practice as a defense attorney in the litigation department and White Collar Investigations Practice Group.  He has also handled many pro bono cases for indigent clients and as a Child Advocate with the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.  In summary, he has extensive experience in both federal and state courts, in both civil and criminal litigation, and as both a prosecutor and defense attorney. He has worked to lower incarceration rates through President Obama’s Clemency Project, and as a teacher has focused on problems of unequal treatment in the criminal justice system on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and socioeconomic status.  Finally, he has a strong commitment to community service, serving as a “Big Brother” for 9 years, volunteering as a Child Advocate in Family Court, and serving on the Board of the Center for Families and Relationships. He  has been endorsed by Philadelphia City Committee, the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 19, The Teamsters Union Joint Council 53 (his father’s union), and the Philadelphia Fire Fighters and Paramedics Union.

#21.Henry McGregor Sias. The Philadelphia Bar process is still ongoing, but he was“Recommended” when he was a candidate in 2017, so we assume he will retain that rating. If elected, Sias would be the first openly transgender man elected to judicial office. However, Sias deserves your support not merely as a trailblazer for LGBT rights, but because he has the experience and qualifications to be an outstanding judge.  Henry grew up in a poor family, which has given him a passion for advocating for people who face challenges. His father was an air traffic controller in 1981 who lost his job when the air traffic control strike was broken and the controllers were fired and banned from federal service.   Subsequently his family fell apart and lost their home.  Henry went to six different elementary schools, lived in low income housing, and was primarily raised by a single mother. He graduated from Western Michigan University, and afterwards entered an MFA program in creative writing there. However, midway through the MFA program, he realized he wanted to go to law school instead, so withdrew and went to Yale Law School. Although Sias did not continue in a career as a creative writer, it should be noted that excellent writing is one of Sias’s strengths as a lawyer.

His legal experience has been varied and extensive. He has worked at large law firms, clerked for two PA Supreme Court Justices, had a solo law practice, clerked for two Judges in the Court of Common Pleas (one with a docket of major crimes, the other in the mass tort program involving asbestos and pharmaceutical liability cases) and co-founded a legal non-profit organization specializing in Expungement petitions, Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity.  His areas of focus have been in civil rights, criminal defense, immigration law, LGBTQ rights, and criminal records. He has often represented clients in which several of these factors intersect, such as cases in which there are immigration implications in a criminal case. He is particularly proud of becoming a specialist in the Post-Conviction Relief Act.  If elected Judge, Sias says he would focus on three things: cybersecurity which he sees as dangerously lax in the First Judicial District, developing a mentoring program for PCRA representation, and nondiscrimination initiatives.  Sias has been endorsed by City Committee and the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

#23 Tiffany Palmer, one of only two rated “Highly Recommended,” by the Philadelphia Bar. Tiffany Palmer has an extremely impressive record of over 20 years practice in civil litigation with an emphasis on civil rights for underserved populations.  She began her law practice as a public interest lawyer, representing low income LGBTQ clients in family law cases, estate planning, real estate matters and probate matters. Since 2002 she has been in private practice (in a firm she co-owns and operates) where she continues to represent clients in a wide variety of family law matters, civil matters, family law related quasi criminal matters, and Orphans’ Court matters.  She has extensive trial experience (over 300 cases) in multiple courts in many counties in Pennsylvania, as well as in New Jersey, the U.S District Court for Eastern Pa, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and many others.

In a particularly significant case she represented a Pennsylvania woman who wished to dissolve a Vermont civil union. The woman and her longtime same-sex partner, both residents of Pennsylvania, had lawfully joined in a Civil Union in Vermont in 2002, at a time in which Vermont was the only place in the United States where same-sex couples could obtain the legal marital status of a civil union. Five months after joining in a civil union, the couple separated.  They wished to dissolve the union, but were unable to do so because Vermont required them to reside in Vermont for six months to do so and they could not leave their homes in Pennsylvania for six months. They then tried to obtain a divorce in Pennsylvania, but a judge ruled that they couldn’t obtain a divorce because they were not married.  Palmer appealed the decision to the Pennsylvania Superior Court and won the case.  Becauseof this case, the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure were amended to expand the definition of divorce to include the dissolution of a civil union.  Palmer has also argued first impression cases regarding gestational surrogacy which have had a significant impact on family law in Pennsylvania. She has won many honors and awards.  Furthermore, she has given many lectures and has been a participant on many panels for the past 20 years, approximately 5-10 per year at numerous colleges and law schools. Finally, she has presented at numerous Pennsylvania Bar Institute Continuing Legal Education Programs. 

We found her answer on the Bar Questionnaire as to why she considered herself qualified a judge particularly strong:  “In my 20 years of law practice, I have represented a wide range of clients, many of whom have been vulnerable minorities.  I have represented clients in deep poverty. LGBTQ people, people of color, clients who speak no English and require a foreign language interpreter, clients who have hearing loss and require sign language interpreters, clients with physical disabilities, clients with profound mental illness, incarcerated minors, adults lacking capacity, and clients experiencing severe trauma.  I have observed the ways in which these litigants interact with the Philadelphia court system, and heave mentally noted the ways in which our courts could have treated some of those litigants with greater respect or compassion”  She believes her own experience of hardship has helped make her more compassionate and understanding. As an LGBTQ young adult she was estranged from her family of origin for several years (including her last year of high school and her college years).She was without a support system or safety net. She wrote that she knows what it is to be one job loss away from homelessness.

Finally, she cites, among  her many qualifications, her broad and extensive law practice of over 20 years, knowledge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, the State and Local rules, experience in handling evidentiary issues, extensive experience drafting innumerable pleadings and motions, and ability to handle large-volume caseloads effectively and efficiently.   Palmer has been endorsed by AFSCME District Council 47, LGBTQ Victory Fund, the Philadelphia Fire Fighters and the Paramedics Union Local 22.

#27 Kay Yu, rated “Recommended” by the Philadelphia Bar. Besides an impressive record of over 20 years of diverse legal experience, Kay has also served on the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations from 2008 to 2013 (as Chairperson for most of that time), and has a long record of community service. 

She also has a compelling personal story.  Kay came to the United States from Korea at age three and a half, brought by her mother who sacrificed everything to give Kay more opportunities.  Her mother was the sole support of the family and Kay’s family struggled with poverty. When Kay was about to enter Middle School, she was shocked to accidentally discover deportation papers for her entire family in a book at home she was thumbing through.  She spent the next ten years fighting to stay here.  As a senior in college, she became her own first client, researching the law, gathering evidence and filing an application for permanent residency.  The fight to avoid deportation inspired her to go to law school. Happily, because of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, she was able to become a naturalized citizen in the same year that she graduated from Law School.

In 2018, Kay was awarded the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Maria Sotomayor Diversity Award. In her acceptance speech she talked about how Sotomayor had said that lawyers have the obligation to ensure equal justice for all.  We are fortunate to live in a democratic society, according to Sotomayor, but without checks the majority can oppress the minority and equal protection is the bedrock of our democracy.  This is the theme of Kay’s campaign, to make justice accessible for every person.

Her legal experience has been varied, and includes work on personal injury matters, ERISA litigation, labor, employment, construction litigation, and workplace conflict. As a chairperson of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, she presided over a year long series of 11 public hearings to investigate intergroup conflict in the School District of Philadelphia. Because of a keen interest in conflict resolution, she undertook intensive training from the American Arbitration Association for mediators and in 2017 was certified as an arbitrator with the First Judicial District Compulsory Arbitration Center.   Since then she has served as the lead mediator for the Philadelphia District Office of Equal Employment Opportunity in three matters involving age discrimination, race discrimination, and disability discrimination and successfully mediated each case in a monetary settlement.

Kay has received endorsements from Second Generation, the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania, and State Representatives Donna Bullock, Morgan Cephas, Jordan Harris, Joseph Hohenstein, Malcolm Kenyatta, Joanna E, McClinton, Brian Sims, and Jared Solomon.

Four More Good Candidates for Consideration

#4. Jennifer Schultz, rated “Recommended” by the Philadelphia Bar when she ran in 2017, so although she has not received her rating for 2019, we assume she will retain that rating.

After clerking for U.S. District Court for two years, Schultz has worked for over 14 years at Community Legal Services in both Coatesville and Philadelphia. Her work has focused on bankruptcy, tenant/landlord issues, and mortgages. She stressed that while defendants in criminal cases are entitled to legal representation, there is no such protection for those involved in civil disputes.  She noted that in most landlord-tenant conflicts, the landlord has a lawyer while the tenant does not. This is particularly striking for low-income tenants.

In answering the question as to why she wants to be a judge, she has written, “I have a better understanding than most judicial candidates about the economic struggles that lower income households face.  This is a very real problem for Philadelphia, as a city that is routinely identified as one of the top ten cities with high levels of deep poverty.  As a judge, I want to continue to advance the aims of the Civil Gideon project.”

#11. Leon Goodman, rated “Recommended,” by the Philadelphia Bar when he ran before, so although he has not yet received his rating for 2019, we assume he will retain that rating.  Leon has a compelling personal story of overcoming many obstacles.  He grew up in the projects in Philadelphia, and lost his mother when he was only 4. He credits his stepmother, who was a teacher at Central High School, as a role model who inspired him to value education.  He has over twenty years’ experience as both a prosecutor, working in the Allegheny County and the Philadelphia District Attorney Offices, and as a criminal defense lawyer in his own practice.  As a judge, he has a particular interest in juvenile justice, particularly in working to reduce the length of probation and to increase alternative programs to incarceration.

#20. Chris Hall. Like so many other candidates, Hall is still waiting for the Philadelphia Bar Rating, but he was rated “Recommended” when he ran for Judge before so we assume he will retain that rating.  

Hall has extensive and diverse legal experience of over 30 years as both a prosecutor and defense attorney in both civil and criminal matters. For the past twelve years, he has focused on qui tam whistleblower investigations involving parallel civil and criminal, state and federal, FDA, DEA, consumer protection, environmental, anti-competition, anti-bribery, anti-money laundering, business law and reputation matters. He has worked both for a large law firm in their White Collar Defense and Government Litigation practice and in the U. S. Attorney’s Office.  He has received recognition from many sources including Pennsylvania Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell AV Peer Review, and Prosecutor of the Year Award from the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators.  He also was awarded the US. Department of Justice Director’s Award for Outstanding Prosecution in connection with first criminal healthcare law prosecution in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, presented by AG Janet Reno. 

#25. James Berardinelli, rated “Recommended” by the Philadelphia Bar Association.

James Berardinelli has been a lawyer for 25 years, with most of his work in criminal law. He began his legal career clerking for a Supreme Court Justice, and then moved to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, where he worked for over15 years, prosecuting homicide cases and municipal and police corruption. He also served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in two different periods where he prosecuted federal cases involving identity theft, wire fraud, mail fraud, municipal and police corruption, and organized crime.  Since 2012, he has been a solo practitioner with a primary emphasis on homicide and major felony defense.  Recently he has also increased his work on PCRA.  

He has won awards for Distinguished Pro Bono Service, First Judicial District and the Director’s Award from the US Department of Justice for Superior Performance by a Special Assistant US Attorney.

In his statement to the Bar on why he wants to be a judge and what he would do to improve our system of justice, Berardinelli stated that his long experience has given him insight to distinguish between those individuals who need a second chance from those who are a danger and need to be sentenced accordingly.  Furthermore, he emphasizes the need to expand and improve the ability of the Criminal Justice System to diagnose and treat mental health issues, which he considers the current system’s greatest failing. Specifically, he says that he would order more intensive full psychiatric evaluations for all gun offenders, which he believe could prevent violent crimes from happening.

#6. Craig Levin is rated “Recommended” by the Philadelphia Bar Association. Craig, a native Philadelphian and resident of the 8 th Ward is 57 years old, married for 26 years, with two grown children.

He has an impressive record of over 31 years’ experience as a civil trial attorney in Philadelphia. He has a general law practice and has handled in excess of 2000 cases in state and federal forums, litigating matters of all types including employment discrimination, contract disputes, personal injury and minor criminal offenses. Craig has also been a certified NHL and NFL agent and represented numerous professional athletes.

He has a diversified client base and has represented citizens from all over Philadelphia. Craig prides himself on the relationships he has built with his clients and has built his practice the old-fashioned way, by satisfied client referrals. Craig regularly performs pro-bono work for his clients and their families and has been pro-bono counsel for the Spanish American Law Enforcement Association (SALEA) for 15 years. For over 18 years, Craig has devoted thousands of hours volunteering as a youth ice hockey coach. Craig has demonstrated in his submissions to the Philadelphia Bar Association, that he is not only a diligent advocate, handling complex cases, but that he is also a caring individual.

Craig wants to be a Judge because he wants to serve the citizens of Philadelphia and help create a criminal justice system that is reflective of the values of fairness and equity that he’s fought for his entire life. He firmly believes that the most vulnerable among us should have the same access to justice as the most privileged.

Non-Judicial Candidates – Excerpted Personal Commentary from Margaret Harris on Ward Endorsed Candidates