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Prepared By: Wendi Barish Phone/Email: 215-828-7986/wendiforjudge@gmail.


Campaign Manager: Rupali Patel Shah Phone/Email: 215-847-0421/

Candidate Name: Wendi Barish

Campaign Address: 615 Chestnut Street, PO Box 40224, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Campaign Email:

Campaign Website:

I, _____________ _____________________, certify that the information

provided on this questionnaire is accurate and the opinions stated here accurately reflect my own

Please complete, sign and return this via email in Word Doc format to and on or before February 13,

The Judicial Accountability Table (JAT) is a coalition comprised of Philadelphia community

organizations working to bring more fairness to our courts. The JAT’s platform is available at We’ve written this questionnaire to be values-
driven and focused on the issues most relevant to the people of Philadelphia, and we’ve made
our questions compliant with the Code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 1 We ask that
you use no more than 250 words to respond to each question.

Specifically the following section of 207 Pa. Code § 4.1, Political and Campaign Activities of Magisterial District Judges and
Judicial Candidates in General:
The making of a pledge, promise, or commitment is not dependent upon, or limited to, the use of any specific words or phrases;
instead, the totality of the statement must be examined to determine whether the candidate for judicial office has specifically
undertaken to reach a particular result. Pledges, promises, or commitments must be contrasted with statements or
announcements of personal views on legal, political, or other issues, which are not prohibited. When making such statements, a
magisterial district judge should acknowledge the overarching judicial obligation to apply and uphold the law, without regard to
his or her personal views.

As well as the following section of 207 Pa. Code § 4.2, Political and Campaign Activities of Judicial Candidates in Public

A judge who is a candidate for elective judicial office shall not make any statement that would reasonably be expected to affect
the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any court.
Thank you for taking the time to complete our questionnaire, and we look forward to your
response. The members and supporters of the JAT include:
Reclaim Philadelphia ICE out of Courts
LILAC DecarceratePA
215 People's Alliance Free the Ballot
Philadelphia Bail Fund One PA
Philadelphia Community Bail Fund Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks
Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project Abolitionist Law Center
Amistad Law Project Democratic First Ward
Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration #No215Jail Coalition


1. What are your top three priorities if you are elected judge?

My top three priorities as an elected judge would be:

1. To view those who come before me as equals and to not exercise judgment until
being made aware of the facts and circumstances surrounding the situation. To
allow objectivity and understanding of the law to serve as a guide and not be
governed by any implicit biases.
2. To ensure the sentence fits the crime with an eye towards rehabilitation.
3. To strive to ensure all people feel safe and are heard in the courtroom.

2. Do you feel that implicit bias plays a role in our courts? If so, how do you think it should

be addressed?

Yes, implicit bias plays a role in our courts and in society in general. Implicit bias
occurs when judgments are rendered based on subconscious beliefs stemming from
cultural experiences. Many people see an individual and allow their implicit bias to
influence their opinion of that person. A judge needs to be held to a higher standard
and must recognize the reality and likelihood of implicit bias and actively work to not
let it influence the decision-making process.

3. What if anything would you do as a judge to assure that neither your courtroom staff nor

litigants are faced with racist or sexist behavior?

As a judge, I would lead by example and have zero tolerance for any form of racism or
sexist behavior in my courtroom. I would make sure my staff are trained on
appropriate workplace conduct and implicit bias. I would also promptly address any
inappropriate behavior by counsel or their clients at sidebar.

4. Do you believe police misconduct is a problem in our criminal justice system? How so?

What role, if any, do the courts have in addressing this issue?

Yes, police misconduct is an evident and apparent problem in our society, not just in
the criminal justice system, as demonstrated by the surmounting number of murders of
Black and Brown people, the assault on peaceful protestors, and the failure to act by
some police officers when people stormed into the Capital on January 6, 2021. The
courts need to hold officers accountable in the same fashion others are held

5. In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other unarmed Black

people by police, Philadelphia protesters have criticized the outsized PPD budget while

communities face massive divestment of resources. A 2019 study from PICA suggested

that the city could save over $7 million by making changes to reduce police court

overtime. What role, if any, do the courts have in addressing this issue?

The courts need to support changes to reduce police court overtime. As the PICA
report highlighted, up to $6.5 million could have been saved by limiting the number of
officers subpoenaed to those essential to the cases’ success. The courts need to encourage
the city to invest in new technology and the court needs to do a better job of allowing
officers to coordinate their shifts with their appearances in court.

6. Do you think our criminal justice system works? Why, or why not? If you think there is

something wrong with how it operates, name three ways you would work to change it as

a judge.

I think our criminal justice system is broken because there would be fewer people in
the system if it worked. The criminal justice system should not be just a punitive
system, it should be a restorative system. If I served in the criminal court, I would take
the following three steps to change the system:

1. I would utilize the various alternatives to incarceration when individuals have

mental health and/or substance abuse issues.
2. I would consider mitigating circumstances such as abuse and trauma when
rendering sentences and applying any sentencing guidelines. I would also seek
input from professionals who are well acquainted with the effects of trauma and
available treatment. I would welcome these professionals into my courtroom to
provide suggestions on treatment options for the accused.
3. When available, I would refer those re-entering from incarceration to programs
that allow them to return to public housing and help them obtain gainful

7. One in three Philadelphians has a criminal record. In your opinion, how can judges

support successful community re-entry?

First, judges need to understand the collateral consequences of a conviction before

deciding whether it is appropriate to convict. By way of example, a drug possession
conviction carries a civil penalty of a one-year driver’s license suspension, which can
prevent an individual from working. While a judge is bound to apply governing law,
based on the relevant facts and circumstances, the judge can take the time to make sure
the individual has the services needed to be able to be gainfully employed, such as job
training and education. Second, judges can make trauma-informed decisions when
issuing sentences, recognizing the effects trauma (such as foster care, neglect, poverty,
homelessness, abuse, systemic racism, etc.) may have affected the individual’s life.
Judges have the ability to issue sentences that can assist individuals in transforming
their lives by providing them access to treatment.

8. Have you or anyone close to you ever been incarcerated? If yes, please share how it

impacted that person or you, and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how do

you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without

having personal experience.

Yes, a close family member has a criminal record which impacted his ability to obtain
gainful employment. At points in time, I have financially supported him so he could
avoid homelessness. I am acutely aware you are sentencing a family for generations to
come when you sentence a person.

9. Individuals held on probation detainers account for over 50% of the city’s jail population,

and individuals are often held without signed judicial warrants. What do you think of


Those who have been sentenced after having been convicted of committing a crime
belong in jail to fulfill their sentence. I do not think people with unsigned judicial
warrants or those on probation detainers belong in the prison population.

10. Philadelphia is at the center of the opioid crisis. In order to prevent more deaths,

advocates have worked on harm reduction initiatives including needle exchange

programs, Narcan distribution, and overdose prevention sites. What can judges do to

help expand and protect programs to combat the opioid crisis and continue to reduce

harm? How do you feel about the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturning the

lower court’s decision that made safe injection sites in Philadelphia legal?

From the outset, judges can recognize the crisis’s existence and the roles of those
prescribing medication. Criminal court judges can impose alternatives to
incarceration and require those suffering from addiction to undergo treatment. Civil
court judges can issue appropriate rulings in cases in which injunctive relief is being
sought to prevent the development of overdose prevention sites.

As someone who may someday sit as a judge on issues regarding safe injection sites, it
would be inappropriate for me to comment directly on the Safehouse decision other
than to state that I recognize that it may have precedential weight as to specific issues.
To the extent that decision does not control my own, I would scrutinize the evidence
and public policy supporting a particular program before determining whether the law
was indeed intended to prohibit the conduct.

11. According to a 2019 report from the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

(NCCPR), Philadelphia now leads the country in removing children and placing them in

foster care. What do you see as the long term effects of this? What can judges do about


Having been raised primarily by my grandparents rather than my parents, I am aware

of how it feels when someone other than your parents raises you. I was lucky that my
grandparents were there for me. The long-term impact of absentee parents and being
placed in foster care can leave a person feeling unworthy and vulnerable. Moreover,
the negative ripple effects of placing a child in foster care are endless. Living in foster
care can take both a physical and psychological toll on a child. A judge can consider
the potential support system available to a child and whether there are support services
that can be offered to parents before removing the child from the home. Ultimately,
the safety of the child must take precedence over all else.

12. How would you factor in a parent's drug history or criminal record in dealing with a

custody matter?

Absent an indication of present drug use or criminal activity, I do not think a parent’s
drug history or criminal record should impede a parent’s custody rights.
13. Have you experienced or known someone who was subject to domestic violence? What

do you think the court's role should be in intervening in such situations?

While I have not personally experienced domestic violence, I do know people who
have. I think courts need to exercise the same treatment regardless of the gender of the
offender in the instance of domestic violence. I believe the court should promote
mental health and substance abuse resources when applicable to both the offender and
victim in the case of domestic violence.

14. Noncitizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. Do you

think it is appropriate for prosecutors, judges, and criminal defense attorneys to work

together to resolve cases in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

Would you accept immigration-neutral plea agreements and/or sentence defendants to

allow them to avoid deportation?

Yes, I do think it appropriate for prosecutors, judges, and criminal defense attorneys to
work together to achieve a resolution that avoids disproportionate immigration
consequences. Also, I would accept immigration-neutral plea agreements and/or
sentence defendants to allow noncitizens to avoid deportation.

15. Do you personally know anyone who is undocumented? If yes, how would this

experience shape your work as a judge? If no, how can you make decisions affecting

undocumented community members without this personal experience?

Yes, I know several undocumented individuals. Knowing these individuals would make
me more sensitive to the issues undocumented people face. I would make my
courtroom a safe place for them.

16. 86% of women who enter the Philadelphia courts have experienced some form of trauma,

and this is especially true for Black women. How would such trauma inform your

decision-making as a judge? Would you consider alternatives to incarceration for people

who have experienced trauma, and if so, what types of alternatives? What practices have

you seen used that you appreciate?

While bound by the law, I could consider mitigating circumstances such as abuse and
trauma when rendering sentences and applying any sentencing guidelines. I would
seek opinions from community groups and professionals who are well acquainted with
women and trauma. The practices I have found to be most effective are those in which
you consult with people possessing real-life experience and/or expertise in the
underlying trauma.

17. Current PA state law allows children under 18 to be prosecuted as adults in some cases,

despite growing efforts locally and nationally to remove children from the adult system.

Do you believe that children should ever be treated legally as adults? Please explain.

What, in your view, are the long-term impacts of incarcerating children in adult jails and


In Miller v. Alabama, the United States Supreme Court held that the Eighth
Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment forbids the
mandatory sentencing of life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile
homicide offenders. The Court concluded children are constitutionally different from
adults for sentencing purposes. While a mandatory life sentence for adults does not
violate the Eighth Amendment such a sentence would be an unconstitutionally
disproportionate punishment for children. In reaching its conclusion the Court
reviewed data demonstrating how different the brains of individuals under the age of
24 are compared to the fully developed adult brain. As a judge I would be bound by the
law and believe the same data presented to the Supreme Court should be applied to a
determination to prosecute any child as an adult.

My view is that the long-term impact of incarcerating children in adult jails results in a
higher likelihood of recidivism and unsuccessful re-entry into society.
18. According to, in 2016 Philadelphia led the country in eviction rates at

3.84%, 1.14% higher than the national average. Today, as a result of the COVID-19

pandemic, unemployment is at a record high and an even greater eviction and foreclosure

avalanche is looming. Adding to the problem, there is a sharp disparity in representation

between landlords (who are usually represented) and tenants (who are usually

unrepresented) in eviction disputes. What would you do as a judge to stop the eviction

and foreclosure crisis? How can judges support the implementation of the Right to
Counsel legislation to ensure fair representation?

On November 14, 2019, the Philadelphia City Council passed a bill titled “Legal
Representation in Landlord Tenant Court” (the “Ordinance”), providing a right to free
legal representation for low-income residents facing eviction proceedings. Mayor
Kenney approved this bill on December 4, 2019. As a judge, I could make certain that
individuals facing eviction who appear before me have been advised of their rights to
be provided with counsel. I could also refer individuals facing foreclose to the existing
Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program.

19. Have you or someone close to you ever been evicted or foreclosed on? If yes, please

explain and describe how this experience would affect your work as a judge. If no, how

would you make decisions that impact the community without this personal experience?

Yes, people close to me have been foreclosed upon and evicted. My personal
experience in this area makes me empathetic to those who have been through this
experience. I believe being homeless and/or under-housed creates an impediment to a
person’s ability to obtain gainful employment and support themselves and their

20. Regardless of whether the landlord or tenant ‘wins’ an eviction case or if the case is

ultimately dismissed, an eviction filing by a landlord leads to a permanent public record

that any future landlord can view online. There are close to 24,000 eviction filings a year

and tenants often have issues renting because of the record. What is the court’s role, if

any, in addressing this obstacle for tenants?

Courts could consider accepting petitions for expungement of eviction records in a

similar fashion that courts consider expungement of criminal records.

21. Are you a landlord? If yes, how many rental properties do you own?

No, I am not a landlord.

22. The majority of consumer debt collection cases are filed by corporate debt buyers against

unrepresented defendants and result in default judgments. What is the role of the

judiciary in ensuring due process for unrepresented defendants in these civil matters?
The judiciary’s role is to ensure that unrepresented defendants were given proper
notice in the instance of any default judgment proceedings and that the corporate debt
buyers followed all necessary protocols in bringing forth the action.

23. In a 2015 analysis, ProPublica found that the rate of judgments stemming from consumer

debt cases was twice as high in mostly Black neighborhoods as it was in mostly white

ones. What role should the judiciary play in addressing these racial disparities?

The judiciary should strive to ensure implicit bias and racism are not at play when
considering whether to enter judgments in consumer debt cases. The court should
scrutinize all requests for judgments to make certain no unlawful practices are being

24. What role should judges play in making courts more transparent and accessible to

members of the community? What will you commit to do if elected judge?

I will commit to leading by example in my courtroom and treating all people with
dignity and respect. I will have zero tolerance for any discriminatory or harassing
conduct. I will make sure my staff is appropriately trained in the areas of implicit bias
and discrimination. I will seek to hire a diverse staff that is representative of the City
of Philadelphia. I want everyone who enters my courtroom to feel as comfortable as

25. What avenues will the Philadelphia community have to hold you accountable to the

values that you express during your campaign, if you are elected?

Judges do not act in silos. I will be accountable to the court of public opinion. I expect
the groups compromising the Judicial Accountability Table and other progressive and
community groups and leaders to act as watch dogs. In the event of any judicial
misconduct, the community could file a complaint with the Judicial Conduct Board of

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