Top: Terri Michelle Booker, left, Theresa Brunson, Laurie Dow, Leon Goodman. Below: Cateria R. McCabe, left, Kendra McCrae, Janine D. Momasso, and Sherman Toppin.

This is 2019, not 1619, 1719, 1819, or even 1919.

This is the North, not the South.

This is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, not Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Despite those facts, no Black candidates for Common Pleas Court judge or Municipal Court judge were elected during the Philadelphia primary on May 21. Not one.

Racists will say that’s because not one of the eight Black candidates among the 27 total candidates was qualified. And I’d say those racists are liars. Here’s the proof:

Terri Michelle Booker is licensed to practice in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York and has spent most of her career pursuing justice for wrongfully convicted inmates and volunteering to teach high school students about law.

Theresa Brunson served as an Assistant District Attorney, a law clerk in Common Pleas Court, and a Chief of Staff as well as a Legislative Director in City Council.

Laurie Dow was promoted to Divisional Deputy City Solicitor, holds an LL.M degree in Transactional Law, and has spent nearly two decades protecting the legal rights of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable children and families. She also was recommended for election by the Philadelphia Bar Association

Leon Goodman, a trial lawyer for nearly 25 years and a lecturer at Temple Law School and Imhotep Charter School, was arguably the most qualified of all candidates- Black, white, Latinx, or Asian- because of his remarkable career as an exemplary homicide prosecutor in the District Attorney’s Office and currently as a top-notch defense attorney in high profile adult and juvenile cases. He also was recommended for election by the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Cateria R. McCabe, arguably one of the most culturally “woke” judicial candidates ever, has been an attorney for nearly 30 years excelling in the fields of domestic relations, real estate, landlord/tenant, and estate planning. She also was recommended for election by the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Kendra McCrae is a highly experienced former Assistant District Attorney who protected the community from violent crime and drug trafficking in hundreds of jury and bench trials and works as a prominent defense attorney to guarantee fair trials to anyone criminally accused. She also was recommended for election by the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Janine D. Momasso, a former judicial intern and law clerk in two jurisdictions, has a successful family law practice with offices in Philadelphia County, Bucks County, and New Jersey.

Sherman Toppin, licensed to practice in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Virginia, is a former president of the Barristers Association and a real estate law expert who continues to teach real estate law to attorneys in Pennsylvania Bar Institute courses and to undergraduate students at Temple University.

Macon Bolling Allen in 1844, which was 21 years before slavery “ended,” became the first Black lawyer in America when he was admitted to the Maine bar. John Swett Rock, a physician, in 1865- just one day after Congress approved the Thirteenth Amendment on January 31- became the first Black lawyer admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. Jonathan Jasper Wright in 1865 became the first Black lawyer in Pennsylvania. Charlotte E. Ray in 1872 became the first Black woman lawyer in America when she was admitted to the D.C. bar. John Daniel Lewis and Jeremiah H. Scott in 1876 became the first Black lawyers to practice in Philadelphia. George Lewis Ruffin in 1883 became the first Black judge in America when he was appointed to Municipal Court by the Massachusetts governor.

Allen, Rock, Wright, Ray, Lewis, Scott, and Ruffin are all rolling over in their graves while yelling “Shame, shame, shame” to Philadelphia. But their outrage is directed more at Black folks than white folks here. Why? After extrapolating the numbers from all 66 wards and focusing on the predominantly Black ones while taking into account that Blacks are the city’s ethnic majority at 42.56 percent, the conclusion is that only about 20 percent of registered Black voters actually voted on May 21. And it was an embarrassing 11 percent in one North Philly ward. WTF?

Clearly, much of the fault lies with the Democratic County Executive Committee of Philadelphia- better known as the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee- and some of its officials for their failure to endorse and promote the many qualified Black candidates based on merit (instead of what, in my personal opinion, was nothing more than extortionist demands for about $60,000 apiece in political “bribe” money from each judicial candidate).

But most of the fault lies with Blacks who didn’t register to vote and Black registered voters who didn’t vote. It’s your fault, dammit. Our ancestors knew they could be lynched for registering to vote or for voting but they did it anyway so you would be free. And now that you’re free, you selfishly turn your back on their selfless sacrifice.

I know that not many in Democratic leadership positions and absolutely none in Republican leadership positions fight for us. But so what! We gotta fight for ourselves.

Remember that on November 5, 2019 during the general municipal election. And remember that on November 3, 2020 during the presidential election along with the U.S. House and Senate elections.

In conclusion, and to paraphrase Marcus Garvey, “None but ourselves can free ourselves.”

Michael Coard, Esquire can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. His “Radio Courtroom” show can be heard on WURD96.1-FM and his “TV Courtroom” show can be seen on PhillyCam/Verizon/Comcast.

(3) comments


This is sinful, not to mention disheartening and embarrassing...

In a city where Blacks represent nearly half the population, we must accept responsibility for an outcome such as this. We still don't seem to appreciate that we are being displaced, that our communities are being sieged or that we are under attack... Why do we wait to react when we KNOW that being proactive and charged to confront and dismantle the effects of gentry-fication is the only viable response or reaction to the will of the 1%, the gentry, the colonizers, whatever you wish to call them. This is a story that should have never been told. Not in 2019... Shame on US, the Brothas & Sistahs in Philly, Black and Brown, who LET this happen... Yep, I said it. Vote People Vote!!! No More Excuses. Divided We Fall...

Granted there has been some shifting but according to the 2010 census, the racial composition of Philadelphia is:
Black or African American: 43.4% (42.2% non-Hispanic)
White: 41.0% (36.9% non-Hispanic)
Hispanic or Latino of any race: 12.3%


The qualifications listed above don't necessarily make for an outstanding judge. As a committee person, and someone generally involved in politics, I had the opportunity to listen to scores of judicial candidates and read many of their endorsement applications, including some of those mentioned above. The only candidate I heard who talked about a larger picture for the future of the judiciary that included eliminating racially biased algorithms and taking practical steps to reduce the racially biased family separation through DHS was Anthony Kyriakakis. He is a Greek guy and very smart. Just because someone is black doesn't make them a judge who will improve the lives of black defendants or victims.

Judges have one of the most important jobs that make a direct impact on the black community, on the lives of literally hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians. They have a ten-year tenure and 99% of the time continue to be retained afterward. There is so much corruption that goes into getting the Democratic Committee endorsement - most of those who received the endorsement got it not just because they paid $30,000k and up, they got the endorsement because they did pro bono dirty work for the party, a horrible quid pro-quo. Take Josh Roberts, who gained his endorsement by working to kick City Commissioner candidates off the ballot.

The remedy to this situation is not to just to select and promote the black attorneys who happen to run - like was pitifully done by a handful of activist left organizations. Instead, we need to seek out stellar black attorneys who have a demonstrated commitment to ending mass incarceration, who have a demonstrated commitment to not penalizing poor families by taking their kids away, and we need to come together to endorse and win a singular seat, or two at the most. To go up against the machine, you don't endorse 6 candidates who happen to be black. Instead you work like mad to get elected one black candidate who you will bring fairness to the bench while radically changing the way our judiciary performs. We have to remember this is an uphill battle because only 4% of graduating law school students are black. So let's roll up our sleeves and get to work now on finding a visionary black judicial candidate for the next election cycle.


This lack of electing qualified Black judges has nothing to do with racism. Unless one calls the lack of Black voters a kind of racism turned in on itself. Roughly only 200,000 plus people voted in the primary. In an age when Black people have access to the world's knowledge literally at their fingertips, are you telling me they cannot educate themselves as to what's going on politically in the city? They can't read newspapers? Especially if they want the online edition of the Tribune and all the rest? No. The right to vote cost our people blood. There's no excuse not to vote in every election. Period.

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