More evidence that we must change the system by which we select judges

On June 19, the DN reported that a “Common Pleas judge nominee spent 550G to win in primary.”

Michael Erdos, a prosecutor in the district attorney's office for the past 10 years, spent about $550,000 in his barely successful campaign to win a Democratic nomination for Common Pleas Court. The figure is thought to be an all-time record for the amount spent to win a local judicial nomination.

The other three judicial candidates who won Democratic nominations also relied on themselves and their families for most of their campaign money.
Alice Beck Dubow reported $303,243 in campaign expenses, Ellen Green-Ceisler spent $199,150 and Linda Carpenter, who had the luck to draw the top ballot position, spent about $130,000, according to their campaign-finance reports.
Candidate Beverly Muldrow, who ran fifth, 3,078 votes behind Erdos, reported $158,053 in campaign expenses, more than $150,000 of it her own money. .

There is something really wrong with this picture.

Granted all four of the successful candidates were very well-qualified. (Disclosure: Phila NOW supported Ellen Green Ceisler and Linda Carpenter, two of the winning candidates and Beverly Muldrow and Angeles Roca, two of the unsuccessful candidates for the Court of Common Pleas.) This was a particularly difficult election for voters as there were more well-qualified candidates than there were available slots.

Increasingly, judicial candidates appear to be financing their campaigns through their personal resources. This at least avoids the ethically dubious practice of raising money from trial lawyers, but limits the candidate pool to those who can draw on personal resources.

From my point of view, the good news is that 3 out of 4 of the wining candidates were women, but the bad news is that none of the winning candidates were women of color.

In a city in which the majority of citizens are members of racial/ethnic minorities how did we manage to elect only white candidates to the Court of Common Pleas?

Clearly we have the critical mass of African-American and Latina lawyers in this city to elect eminently well-qualified African-American and Latina judges. The candidates’ campaign finance reports provide us with at least a partial explanation of why this is not happening.

Now what do we do about this?

Karen Bojar
Philadelphia NOW

I strong supported Mike

I strong supported Mike Erdos and still do. I thought he was one of, if not the most, well qualified candidate. When he squeaked in, I was very happy. That guy campaigned his tail off--more than most other judicial candidates.

But, Karen is correct, there needs to be a way of leveling the playing field. It is unfornate that a highly qualified guy like Mike shoud have to spend so much money to win. It is equally unfortunate that candidates without such resources cannot.

I like the idea of public financing of elections. We should look into that.

I do get a chuckle out of

I do get a chuckle out of the racial voting comments. You either get "people vote because of color" or "how did we get all white candidates in a split race city". Even funnier is that it was pointed out 3 of the 4 winners are women, who are counted as "minorities" as far as city business contracting goes.

Seriously, are people supposed to vote for similar race or are they just supposed to vote? You can't have it both ways.

It is an election, the winners do NOT have to mirror population demographics.

At some point people have to stop looking for things to be upset about.
"yes adam gave some informative comments but he also seems to sprinkle a little adam dust on it." - merkin

This is gonna shock

This is gonna shock everyone, but... Adam is a white guy.

Adam's race is about as

Adam's race is about as relevant to his comment as is his hairstyle.

This line: "It is an election, the winners do NOT have to mirror population demographics" is correct in practice. Just look at Rep. Cohen. It's been about 15 years since he was a reflection of the demographics in his district.

I supported Mike Erdos because he was well qualified and a good candidate (subjectively). The same reason I wanted to see people, some who were white guys, Matt McClure, Irv, and Maria win. Because they were qualifed. Not because Matt was white and he lived in Roxbourough, or Irv was Jewish and lived in Germantown, or because Maria was Latina in a mostly Latino district. Each of these people would have been (and in Maria's case) will be excellent public servants.

Elections, particularly, Judicial elections, to me, are not like picking teams in gym class. They are about people's perceptions--and mine happen to be shaped by qualifications (to some extent ability to win) and experience. Also, I almost always prefer a candidate who is working hard at campaigning,

Now, the key is ensuring that everyone, regardless of race, gender or religion (or lack of) have the same opportunity to get the experience and qualification. That is a whole different conversation--but one that should be discussed. Also, public financing of elections could allow the playing field to be made even. Something we have discussed on many occassions.

Oh get off it Dan. That's

Oh get off it Dan. That's right, I am the great oppressor.

"yes adam gave some informative comments but he also seems to sprinkle a little adam dust on it." - merkin

Did I say that? No.

Did I say that? No.

But, when someone on this blog has a legitimate concern, I think it is pretty arrogant for you to dismiss that as just 'looking for things to be upset about.'

Well, my opinion is that, at

Well, my opinion is that, at least in the election in question, it wasn't a legitimate concern and the original poster's post raises many questions.

Did Philadelphia NOW endorse the candidates based partially on race as well as qualifications?

Is Philadelphia NOW upset because too many 'white' women won? For the sake of diversity, would they be happier with one less white woman winning and instead a black male winning?

Are people supposed to vote along racial lines or not? On one end we were happy Nutter was able to bridge the gap between white and black voters, but in this instance it is being chastised for the race gap being, possibly, bridged by white women.

The original poster was implying some sort of electoral unfairness. One of the candidates was Angeles Roca, pretty easy to guess she is hispanic. Why does the original poster think the hispanic community didn't overwhelmingly vote for her?

Do people, or at least the original poster, believe elections winners should mirror voter demographics?

It was a free and open election with no complaints of voter fraud and women won 3:1. I do feel, in this competition, the original poster is looking for something to be upset about. She thinks there was a problem. I do not. She pretty much said one white woman won because of her ballot position and the other two won, over the black candidate, because they had more money. If that is the case, none of it has to do with race at all.

As for your "white guy" comment, what was your point of the statement? You were obviously trying to imply a negative connotation. Are white males not allowed to comment on ethnic and minority issues unless they 100% agree?

"yes adam gave some informative comments but he also seems to sprinkle a little adam dust on it." - merkin

Phila NOW's criteria for endorsement.

Adam, sorry I don’t have time right now to reply to all the points you raised. However, if you go to and click on Phila NOW you will see our criteria for endorsement.

Our primary goal is electing feminist women; however, we are concerned with diversity in race and ethnicity as well as in gender.

Endorsement decisions can be very difficult and liberal/ progressive organizations struggle with these decisions. Although we may agree on the issues, we often disagree when it comes to deciding which candidate can best advance our issues.

Right now a debate is occurring in our chapter with regard to national NOW’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Contrary to media stereotypes, the feminist movement is not monolithic.

Finally, the primary intent of my post was to call attention to the role of money in determining who becomes a judge.


Adam, I think you're misconstruing KBojar's original complaint. It's not at all a call for voting along racial lines, that voters of color should vote for canidates of color, but that Philadelphia's demographics give it "the critical mass of African-American and Latina lawyers in this city to elect eminently well-qualified African-American and Latina judges" (emphasis mine). In other words, arguably there should be more qualified women of color than are either being elected or running in the first place.

This is a very different kind of claim. Explanations could range from white voters voting along racial lines to more complicated institutional problems (access to money, political insiders, or the kinds of resumes that lead to judgeships). Another related claim is that while the picture may be getting better for white female candidates, and maybe for black or latino male candidates, these changes aren't translating to black or latino women. If that's the case, then organizations like NOW need to ask why, and whether there's anything they can do to extend whatever inroads are being made to their entire constituency.

Looking past the 2007 primary -- I'm curious: does anyone know what the race/sex makeup is for the whole court?

I can't disagree with this one. But it's tricky.

Believe me, I spent a lot of time thinking about this one this year!!!

I haven't come up with a solution. It's really tough. Go read Doron Taussig's article on this it is again. He proposes a solution.

Mr. Taussig, quoting Lou Agre on this very site, points out that election vs. merit selection "is a false choice."

He writes:

"The main problem with judicial elections is not that the people choose badly. It's that the people don't really choose. The politics that should be irrelevant to judicial selection may be inevitable, but they're made worse by the fact that they're conducted under the cover of public indifference.

Pennsylvania is operating under a false premise. The reason we outsource any official appointments - police commissioner, tax assessor, the head of FEMA - to elected representatives is that the public has neither the time nor the inclination to micromanage the government.

Judicial selection is no different. This problem could be addressed in a couple of ways: by spending public money to promote elections in which candidates' qualifications are carefully explained (along with a new media commitment to cover them), or by switching to a merit system with strong checks and balances."


And, while I am quoting, this was the best subhead of the year:

"Congratulations! You Received the Democratic Party's Endorsement. Pay $35,000."

Ha ha ha ha
ha ha

How do you define reform?


I too pushed the button for Mike Erdos and Alice Beck Dubow. I won't, not that it matters, in Novemeber Check out

Why did they both give Donna Reed Miller $7000 ? Was it becuase they support the one of the most ethically challenged council member or were they assisting the Deomocratic City Committee in skirting campaign finance laws?

What do you think Gaetano?

I will vote for Mike Erdos

I will vote for Mike Erdos and DuBow in November. Both are exceedingly bright and well-qualified to be judges. I'm excited about them sitting on the bench. There is not a question in my mind.

I'm sure they gave money to a lot of people. I can't say why they did--probably a question better asked of them. Unless you want me to regain the ability to read minds.

I don't spend my life presuming people do bad things. Maybe that is a character flaw.

I know Mike. He is upstanding and campaigned his ass off. He has spent years working in public service. I'm glad he is being rewarded for it.

money talks, nobody walks


Let's face it-- he is getting rewarded for spending $550,000 for his campaign, she is getting rewarded for spending $303,243.

Does it suck they spent that

Does it suck they spent that much to get elected? Yes. I'm not going to sit here and say they didn't spend a lot of money. But, of the candidates, they were two of the best. In fact, I'd rank them 1 and 2. I know some will disagree here, but that is my opinion.

You are not debating their merits, however. So, perhaps you should look at their qualifications too.

You seem bitter? Why?

germantown.anne I am not


I am not questioning whether or not Erdos and Dubow are qualified. I voted for them.

We are stuck with Donna Miller. Erdos and DuBow were top contibutors at 7,000 each

It sucks to have reform candidates help deliver the knock out blow to two far more qualified candidates.

The size of the contribution does make me question whether or not they were directed by the Democratic City Committee as the committee's way to skirt campaign finance laws.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Traffic Court

How did the voters do on that one, Gaetano?

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