Former judge hopes to make the transition to DA

Teresa Carr Deni, one of seven Democratic District Attorney candidates, says the district attorney’s office needs “a brand new culture.”

Deni

Teresa Carr Deni believes her experience as a lawyer and judge makes her an ideal candidate to be Philadelphia’s next district attorney.

“I’ve been in the middle of it for 31 years,” she said.

Deni is one of eight candidates for district attorney in next Tuesday’s primary. They are vying to replace Democrat Seth Williams, who announced he would not seek a third term, then was indicted on federal corruption charges.

Among the eight candidates, Deni is the only one who lives in the Northeast. She lives in Crestmont Farms with her two sons, Bill, a senior at Archbishop Ryan High School, and Victor, a sixth-grader at Our Lady of Calvary.

She is one of seven Democrats in the race, and her supporters will be at the polls handing out sample ballots that include the names of judges she is backing.

If elected she has plans to reform the district attorney’s office.

“I think they need a brand new culture,” she said.

Deni was born at Frankford Hospital and lived in Tacony until age 3, when her family moved to Croydon. She moved back to Philadelphia as a young adult and earned a communication degree from Temple in 1978. She graduated from Temple’s law school in 1985, serving two years as class president.

For a decade, she worked as a defense attorney and in the city solicitor’s, Board of Revision of Taxes and Office of Housing and Community Development offices.

Politically, she was volunteer assistant counsel to the Democratic City Committee. She launched a successful campaign for Municipal Court in 1995.

She served as a judge until resigning last December to run for DA.

“It was fulfilling. I put my all into it. It’s an intense job. You just want to be fair,” she said.

Deni wanted to run in 2009, when Lynne Abraham stepped aside, but she sensed that Williams had too much support.

This time, she announced her campaign in front of the DA’s office, two days after resigning as judge.

“Being a judge was definitely good background for this position,” she said.

On the issues, she favors moving many preliminary hearings from the Criminal Justice Center in Center City to police districts, to make it more convenient for victims and witnesses.

She wants to help promote better interaction between the police and community, arguing that the partnership would help solve crimes such as murder.

“We need better communication in communities where violent crime is happening,” she said.

Many crimes are fueled, she said, by drug addiction. Instead of sending addicts to prison, she favors treatment programs, “if they’ll accept it.”

“It gives them an opportunity to avoid conviction if they accept treatment. I want to be willing to work with them,” she said.

For drug arrests and other nonviolent crimes, she would reform the three-decade-old bail guidelines. For first arrests, she believes common sense should prevail. Sobriety should be the goal for addicts.

“You have to give them a chance to cooperate,” she said.

If she become district attorney next January, she would hire more multilingual lawyers and interpreters. She would work to retain the best lawyers in the office, invite some former top-notch prosecutors to return and hire talented young attorneys.

“They do have some very good people there. People like that, you keep them there to train the next generation,” she said.

For more information on her campaign, visit deniforda.com. ••