There is no Black b---h on the bench.
Neither is there anywhere on the planet.
But there are many impressive Black women judges, lawyers, District Attorneys, police chiefs, sheriffs, senators, congresspersons, mayors, CEOs, CPAs, physicians, professors, etc.
And one of those impressive Black women judges is the Honorable Karen Yvette Simmons — the same person who recently received the most racist and misogynistic note that any judge has ever received from an insider in any Philadelphia courthouse.
On Dec. 11, someone with official access to the robing room — which is a private area for judges — in the courthouse across from City Hall left an interdepartmental envelope addressed to Judge Simmons who, at the time, was one of three candidates running for President Judge of Municipal Court (in an election voted on by her judicial colleagues).
Inside that envelope was a note to her stating verbatim in all caps, “THERE WILL NEVER BE A BLACK B---H RUNNING OUR COURT. YOU WON’T BE PRESIDENT JUDGE!!! KEEP MC COURT GREAT!!”
So far, no one is saying whether the possible suspect is a fellow judge, judicial staffer, or someone else. But a formal, diligent, and meticulous investigation by the Police Department, the Sheriff’s Office, and the DA’s Office began that very same day. And thanks to both Police Commissioner Richard Ross and Sheriff Jewel Williams, the judge has been provided with round-the-clock escort protection.
Stay tuned during the coming weeks or so because all three of those law enforcement entities assured me a few days ago that their separate investigations are ongoing. And those investigations include, but are not limited to, fingerprints, internal courthouse cameras, and nearby external on-street cameras. The public is encouraged to provide any helpful eyewitness, earwitness, or other information by calling Commissioner Ross at (215) 686-3280, Sheriff Williams at (215) 686-3530, or DA Larry Krasner at (215) 686-8000.
I described Judge Simmons as an “impressive Black woman judge.” But what I should have written is “impressive judge” period. And here’s why. Her curriculum vitae is exceptional. Before being elected Municipal Court judge in 2005 and inaugurated in 2006, she was a top-notch assistant public defender and then a first-rate assistant city solicitor with expertise in labor and employment litigation. Based on her excellent performance in both capacities, she was selected Chief Legal Counsel for the Police Department and Police Commissioners.
In response to that racist and misogynistic note, Bar Association Chancellor Mary F. Platt described Judge Simmons as “an esteemed and distinguished member of our judiciary and a highly valued member of our association.” Furthermore, the prestigious Philadelphia Bar Association Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention Ratings recommended her for reelection in 2017 and she easily won with 80 percent of the popular vote.
In addition to being a preeminent “brains and brawn” jurist, Judge Simmons has lectured and continues to lecture to lawyers at scholarly legal seminars on issues concerning the relationship of the First Amendment to criminal law and concerning the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure/probable cause mandate. Moreover, she has lectured and continues to lecture to law students about achieving academic success and pursuing law-related careers.
There’s more. Along with being a member of the preeminent Criminal Law American Inn of Court which improves lawyers’ trial advocacy skills and focuses on professionalism in the practice of law, she has been a member of the Criminal Procedural Rules Committee.
But most important, Judge Simmons is an unrelenting adherent of the unparalleled Justice Juanita Kidd Stout, the former music teacher and chief appellate Assistant DA who became not only the first Black woman judge in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania when she was appointed to Municipal Court in 1959 but also the first Black woman elected to any judgeship anywhere in America when, later that year, she ran for a Municipal Court position and won.
When she was appointed to Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court in 1988 after having served since 1969 as one of the city’s greatest Court of Common Pleas homicide judges, Justice Stout became the first Black woman state Supreme Court justice in U.S. history.
In well-deserved recognition of her trailblazing accomplishments, the Criminal Justice Center in 2014 was renamed The Justice Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice. (By the way, stop calling it “CJC,” dammit. Instead, call it the “Stout Center.”)
Just as the scholarly and methodical Judge Simmons is a devotee of Justice Stout, so is the Court of Common Pleas’ immediate past president, the Honorable Sheila Woods-Skipper, a learned and orderly Black woman. And so is another former Common Pleas Court president, the Honorable Frederica Massiah-Jackson, an erudite and well-organized Black woman.
And not one of them is a Black b---h. And neither are the Honorable Jacqueline Allen, Gwendolyn Bright, Deborah Canty, Lucretia Clemons, Lori Dumas, Joyce Eubanks, Jacquelyn Frazier-Lyde, Lillian Harris Ransome, Shanese Johnson, Lydia Kirkland, Tamika Lane, Paula Patrick, Mia Roberts Perez, Rosalyn Robinson, Stephanie Sawyer, Kia Scott, Lisette Shirdan-Harris, Karen Shreeves-Johns, Kathryn Streeter-Lewis, Sierra Thomas Street, Sharon Williams-Losier, Nina Wright-Padilla, nor any of the approximately 30 Black/Brown women judges in Philly.
As Rochelle Bilal, president of the Guardian Civic League said during a pro-Simmons rally- joined by NAACP chapter president Min. Rodney Muhammad and Deacon Matthew Smith who is chapter president of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network- in front of the Stout Center on Thursday, “This matter must be investigated as a hate crime. The sneaky culprit must be fired if he or she is a city employee AND must be arrested as well.”
And as I’m saying today, “Let’s help the Commissioner, the Sheriff, and the DA in their thorough investigation to find the cowardly misogynistic racist who’s the real b---h.”