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Prepared By: Cortez Patton

Campaign Manager: Tamir Harper

Candidate Name: Cortez Patton

Campaign Address:

Campaign Email: Campaign Website: ​

I, Cortez Patton, certify that the information provided on this questionnaire is accurate and the
opinions stated here accurately reflect my own positions.

Please complete, sign and return this via email in Word Doc format​ ​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.
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:

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.
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 first priority will be to promote the value of human dignity in the legal system. When

judges recognize that people have the right to be treated fairly regardless of how they

present, then we should see a decrease in disparities throughout the system. And, more

specific to my courtroom, my second priority will be continuing the work of helping

people stabilize themselves. In order to further reduce prison populations, we have to

partner with community organizations and provide resources to create pathways to

individual stability so that we can prevent recidivism. My third priority will be

maintaining a courtroom environment in which people understand they have the right to

be heard and that their lived experience will be taken into consideration when rendering a


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

be addressed?

Yes. Many judges do not regularly interact with the communities of people that appear

before them, so there are barriers that exist simply because people do not understand each

other. To combat implicit bias, there should be frequent training on diversity and
inclusion. Additionally, there should be regular audits conducted by an external group to

review complaints and track case outcomes to determine if particular groups are

experiencing disparate impact.

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?

Fundamentally, I would set the standard for acceptable conduct and address conduct that

violates our most basic understating of dignity and respect. I would make sure staff and

litigants understand that they can notify me of issues they are experiencing. I would also

make sure another responsible person or group was identified for the purpose of receiving

and addressing complaints.

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?

Police misconduct is a problem because it erodes trust between communities and systems

of government. And, of greater concern, individuals can be deprived of life and liberty

because of misconduct. Courts can help restore trust and fairness by scrutinizing police

testimony in the same manner as any other witness. Credibility can be assessed better

when everyone is held to the same standard.

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?

Courts have to make a more concerted effort to prioritize community programs and
support. Given the level of poverty in Philadelphia, judges must be mindful of conditions

they set when deciding appropriate punishment. Data tells us that people often reoffend

because they do not have the necessary skill or knowledge to pursue more productive

paths. Judges can elevate that conversation and partner with stakeholders to provide

needed support. Additional community support should lead to a decrease in overall crime,

which should drastically reduce the need for police to appear 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.

The criminal justice system is broken. There is far too much emphasis on retribution as

opposed to restoration and rehabilitation. I would utilize diversion programs to allow

people an opportunity to address whatever led them to commit a crime. I would ensure

that conditions related to supervision are targeted to help individuals stabilize themselves

through work or community programs. I would also not order offenders to remain in jail

pending trial unless there was a true public safety threat.

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

support successful community re-entry?

Judges must be better educated on available community support mechanisms. Returning

citizens need significant support and they often return to places that are lacking resources.

Judges should connect returning citizens to community programs that can meet their

individual needs. That’s the most efficient way to reduce recidivism and promote


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.

I have never been incarcerated, but my brother has. My brother’s incarceration caused

him to miss a significant portion of his son’s life and he has had limited employment

opportunities because of his record and gaps in work history. As a judge, I would be

mindful of the impact to communities and families when a member is taken away. When

a prison term is necessary, I would order conditions related to education or skills training

so that the person will be best equipped for life when returning home.

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


I think probationers should not be detained without an opportunity to be heard in court.

Probationers should be afforded an opportunity to explain their conduct and I would have

the opportunity to assess any public safety concerns and ensure that conditions of

probations are not overly burdensome.

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?

We know that people suffering through the opioid crisis need treatment. There is already
a Treatment Court, so judges can direct people to appropriate programs. Treatment

opportunities need to be expanded in order to preserve life.

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


Children are continually traumatized when they are placed in foster care. There are

profound issues with their social and emotional development. Philadelphia is failing to

provide the support families need to reunite. That has to be a real priority. Judges should

take greater care to determine what supports a parent or guardian might need to provide a

safe and stable home. Removing a child from the home or family should be the last


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

custody matter?

In assessing the best interests of a child, I would carefully scrutinize drug history or

criminal records. My goal would be to ensure the child’s health and safety while not

penalizing a parent for having had issues in the past. How recent the parent’s issues are

will be a major factor in determining the best custody arrangement.

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?

I know someone who was subject to domestic violence. The court must intervene to

reduce further harm and provide counseling or other programs to address underlying

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 would do everything in my power to prevent federal enforcement agencies from

interfering with the outcomes all parties agree are appropriate.

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?

I do not know any undocumented community members. The foundation of my work is

equity. It would not be fair to ignore the collateral consequences, such as family

separation and risks to general wellbeing, undocumneted community members face

when rendering decisions.

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?

Any decisions would have to take past trauma into account to determine the most

appropriate outcome. For Black families living in poverty, women are often responsible

for taking care of everyone in the household. The trauma from that dynamic and the

likelihood that children may be involved means that incarceration should be a last resort.
I would explore community supervision in lieu of incarceration. I would also order

counseling with trauma-informed specialists and additional treatment as necessary.

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


Children should not be charged as adults. Science tells us that a person’s brain is not fully

developed until 25. When we charge children as adults, we hold them to an impossible

standard. And, because there are limited programs to help children in prisons, many

return to their communities without skills or education to be competitive in the job

market and the prison environment itself can lead to additional trauma. That places them

at greater risk for recidivism.

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?

I would do everything in my power to keep people in their homes. Widespread problems

require attention from all stakeholders. Judges can support right to counsel legislation by
being transparent about courtroom norms and the imbalance in representation. Judges can

offer testimony and public support for such legislation.

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?

I do not know anyone who has been evicted or foreclosed on. However, there is a major

problem with homelessness in accessing affordable housing in Philadelphia. I would be

mindful of these dynamics when rendering decisions. My goal is to provide pathways to


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

ultimately dismissed, an eviction ​filing b​ y 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?

The court’s role is to partner with other stakeholders to develop a policy whereby these

records can be cleared after a designated period of time.

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

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 court’s role is to make every effort to help the unrepresented party understand the

process and individual rights.

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 court’s role is to highlight the disparities so that regulators and lawmakers can

address the issues related to disparate impact.

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?

Judges should take more care to explain their decision-making. I believe audits are the

best way to track outcomes and provide information to the public. I will commit to

participating in audits so the voting public has clear information about my temperament

on the bench.

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?

I plan to be a community judge. That means I will remain integrated in the community to

understand ongoing needs and to provide mentorship. Of course retention elections are an

option for accountability, but I believe audits and community engagement will provide

the necessary opportunities for accountability.

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