In defense of arraignment magistrates
Your newspaper recently published a commentary titled “Truth about Philadelphia homicides reveals path forward,” where the author incorrectly tied the City’s increase in gun violence with his false and baseless premise that Philadelphia Municipal Court (MC) arraignment magistrates are inexperienced and lack sufficient legal training.
When offering solutions to critical problems, critics should at the very least base their criticism on correct and factual information. Rep. Jason Dawkins’ commentary was not based on facts.
Four of the six current MC arraignment court magistrates are attorneys in good standing with the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The two non-attorney magistrates possess a combined 25 years of magisterial experience, and more than 40 years of service in the Courts of Philadelphia. All receive annual certification as required by law.
MC magistrates are selected via a process that includes a comprehensive review of their professional credentials and qualifications – combined with a thorough background check — before the current 27 MC judges vote on a final selection.
Philadelphia Arraignment Court is unique in Pennsylvania, operating 24 hours a day, processing some 25,000 preliminary arraignments each year — while continuing uninterrupted throughout the pandemic.
Most importantly — and absent from the author’s commentary — is the fact that attorneys on either side may appeal a magistrate’s decision, or the decision of any judicial authority, at any point in a case’s proceedings — from the moment the initial bail decision is made, all the way through to the conclusion of the case. A system of checks and balances exists to protect against exactly what the author calls “decisions [that] don’t meet [the public’s] expectations.”
Arraignment Court Magistrates are public servants – and just like the author, Rep. Dawkins, are open to criticism. Ironically, MC magistrates are often criticized simultaneously for setting bail either too high or too low. But in an adversarial justice system, where two parties disagree, that should come as no surprise.
Joseph P. Capone, Esq.
Director of Legal Services, Philadelphia Municipal Court
New police commissioner
When our moronic mayor decided about 3 years ago to hire a new police commissioner he hired a black female from the west coast.
She was supposed to reduce the number of murders in Philadelphia, but every year they have gone up and up to new records.
Let me suggest that instead of hiring the best qualified person to fight crime, you rely on sex, race and other reasons, then consider a white, male Ukrainian.
Schools need improvements
The Northeast Philadelphia region is changing rapidly along economic and racial demographics. The constituents whom Rep. Martian White primarily targets (Republican whites) are gradually making their way out to Bucks County and other suburban districts. The Northeast is a community with a growing percentage of recently arrived immigrants, and lower-income families moving out of recently gentrified areas of Philadelphia. If Rep. White wishes to represent our changing neighborhood, she must adapt to and acknowledge the values and needs of future Northeastonians.
In terms of public schooling, Philadelphia as a whole is greatly lacking (as is the stereotype with major urban centers). The more suburban and white Northeast is no exception. There are essentially only three options for public high schools under her constituency, Northeast High School, Washington High School and Benjamin Rush High School. Though they are not the worst Philadelphia has to offer in terms of academics and social environment, there is definitely room for improvement. Those who can send their kids to MaST without a second thought, or better yet, lie about their address and send their kids to Lower Moreland High. To play the tune of the long-ago broken record, we need more funding for our public schools. Especially with the growing number of immigrant children who need to get a solid foothold in the country, the schools across Philadelphia, but specifically in the Northeast, need counseling and career planning resources to support children and by relation their communities. White has already shown herself to be a champion of student rights with her attempt to secure a free play or recess period in curriculum (HB 2063), so I hope she maintains and builds on that foundation.
Currently, she has multiple bills in committee in regard to gun control (among them being HR 111 and HB 1587). They provide alterations for how persons accused of firearm charges should be judged and sentenced. From what I have read, these bills primarily target defendants who were in possession of an illegal firearm, and promote a longer mandatory minimum of incarceration for said accused. Frankly, people who carry illegal weapons (or legal weapons for that matter) have them for two reasons: to kill, or to threaten to kill. If a person is so set on either protecting themselves, or killing another person, an extra few years on their potential incarceration won’t be a huge factor in their decision making. I’m not saying that criminals shouldn’t be justly punished for their crimes, but laws should serve as preventative measures to discourage people from harming social order. I simply don’t see this bill preventing the acquisition of illegal firearms. It’s a punishment for punishment’s sake. Philadelphia is a city with one of the highest gun crime rates in the country. If we wish to rid ourselves of that title, we (but specifically White as a representative) need to reevaluate the gun culture in America; to whom we give guns and how we regulate those guns.
White has achieved a lot in her last few years of office. I congratulate her on becoming the first woman to lead the Republican Party of Philadelphia (which isn’t a simple feat). Though we obviously have political disagreements, I respect and thank her for the work she’s done for the Northeast.
Julia Masterman High School
Looks like a slum
I am a graduate of Abraham Lincoln High School in 1963. I played varsity football back in the 1960s and was very proud of what the school did for me. I drove by the back of the football stadium and I was appalled by what I saw. The whole back of the stadium was filled with graffiti in black markings. What a shame to drive past the school on Rowland Avenue and to see that. The stadium was built and completed in 1956. It also was just recently renovated by the school board by installing new plumbing and repainting the concrete walls. It really looked very nice when they finished the work. There are no lights on the Rowland Avenue side at night time. Kids must sneak in or climb the fences to do this dirty deed. It’s a disgrace to the people who live near Lincoln High School. I just can’t believe that the school or the city can’t hire a person to guard over the property. If you drive by at night, it’s pitch black. It looks like the area is in a slum part of town and something should be done about it. A concerned graduate who had no graffiti when I went there.