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Prepared By: _Rania Major ___________________ Phone/Email:

Campaign Manager: __Mariel J. K. Martin_ Phone/Email:

Candidate Name: Rania Major _______________________________________________

Campaign Address: _______________________

Campaign Email: ______ Campaign Website:

I, _______Rania Major___________________________________, 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​ ​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

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
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:

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
215 People's Alliance
Philadelphia Bail Fund
Philadelphia Community Bail Fund
Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project
Amistad Law Project
Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration
ICE out of Courts
Free the Ballot
One PA
Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks
Abolitionist Law Center
Democratic First Ward
#No215Jail Coalition
1. My top three priorities are:
a. Helping our courts and prisons function safely, but at least at the normal rate of cases, for
everyone during Covid, or any other unforeseen consequence. As a lawyer, I have been trying to
do this. Our courts, particularly criminal, should have 100% virtual capability by now, and we are
not even close. The buildings do not have the proper air ventilation, are not appropriately
disinfected, etc. Everyone from the maintenance staff to the judges is at risk in Philadelphia’s
courts. The prisoners have only been given one layer of a bed sheet as a mask. Like our courts,
the other health and safety requirements are not being met in our prisons. Philadelphia just
keeps adding delays to justice in most, if not all, court divisions for no other reason than the lack
of preparedness of our courts! I got councilman and a state representative involved. I, along
with two colleagues that I asked to help, prepared questions to be posed by the councilman to
the courts and prisons about the lack of preparedness of Philadelphia County. Criminal cases, in
my opinion, are in a Constitutional crisis due to the lack of preparedness and unnecessary
delays. For family court, children’s lives are being stranded in the balance, be it a regular custody
matter, or far worse, a dependency matter where children are in DHS custody. These cases are
moving, but slowly because virtual scheduling often leaves unused time in which another case
(from outside a courtroom in non-pandemic times) cannot just be called next. Likewise, support,
divorce and equitable distribution are going exponentially slowly, if at all. Civil is almost at a
stand still. Major cases, where a person may have lost their limbs or a loved one, are not settling
because a jury trial is not imminent. Arbitrations are virtual at this point. Landlord-tenant and
small claims court are trying to function, but, again, without all proper safeguards.
b. Judicial transparency – Once judges are elected, the general public does not hear much about
them. While a judge cannot talk about cases per se, such things as statistics, i.e, how many cases
completed, open, set for trial, time to get to trial, etc., and the state of the courts can be
discussed. There should be an open forum for the public to stay informed on the status of the
c. Being fair, impartial, understanding and just to all litigants and witnesses. I have had a
neighborhood office on North 5​th​ Street since 1998. While I serve the entire city, state and
clients outside both, I have seen, been exposed to and learned so much about the everyday lives
and issues truly facing people that many judges do not believe even when I explain the relevant
facts to a case. I want to help better educate the judges who do not understand. I want to better
educate those working throughout the court system, whom have not been immersed as I have
in all cultures, to be more open to listening to the lawyers, litigants, families and witnesses
about life as it truly exists. I see all perspectives. Balancing them to make the right decision on a
case-by-case basis is my ultimate goal and would be my job.
2. I believe that implicit bias can, and unfortunately does, exist anywhere. It is dependent upon the
individual. It is not absent from the courts merely because it should be. The courts, from the
judges down, can benefit from sensitivity training; discussions without repercussions; and, a
private complaint process for objective investigations. One or two judges have told me things
that happened to them that, quite frankly, shocked, but not necessarily surprised, me.
3. Remove any lawyer, witness, staff or other person immediately, and permanently, from my
courtroom that engages in any discriminatory or inappropriate behavior if it is flagrant. Likewise,
report the behavior to any appropriate authority. If it is not flagrant, or I did not personally see
it, then remove them until such time as the matter could be fully investigated and a decision
made on the merits. If the allegation had merit, they would be permanently removed and
reported to any applicable agency as well.
4. I believe, and know, that police misconduct exists, but not by every officer merely because they
are one. I have represented plenty of clients whose cases I have won by proving it in court. The
court is the ultimate arbiter and stop gap for misconduct be it police or otherwise. Where it
exists, the DAO should be informed to investigate it. IAD needs to be informed so that it may
investigate as well, but IAD is not always beyond misconduct either. Federal investigations also
take place to aid in these situations and should continue to do so.
5. Police court overtime can be addresses, and to some extent they have tried in the past, by
better scheduling. Part of the difficulty particularly arises in jury trials. Oftentimes, the police sit
in the hallway for days when their testimony is unnecessary. To a large extent, that is a DAO
witness issue. The scheduling is up to the individual assistant district attorney or lawyer, if they
need a police witness, so that they are ready at all times. There is nothing worse than holding a
case up because a witness is not present. However, I often think that better trial planning could
assist in this regard. If an officer already testified, then that officer should not come back until
closings, unless called back to testify. Most lawyers know in advance if they need to recall a
witness. Furthermore, they have to ask the judge to reserve their right of recall. To another
extent, the overtime is inherent in the judicial process itself. Issues arise, objections are made,
other natural delays occur while witnesses wait in the halls to testify. That being said, the judge
can play a role in helping to streamline witnesses, be they police or otherwise. Statusing the
matter and witness list throughout the day, could aid in this regard. If an unexpected delay, or
lengthy argument over an objection for expel, occurs in the courtroom, then the judge should
hold a conference to see if all witnesses would still be able to have their testimony heard that
day, or, if they could be released for the day. When the CJC had zone court – each floor was for
different part(s) of the city - police overtime for preliminary hearings seemed more time and
economically efficient. Bench or jury trials are different. A master police witness list, not just per
courtroom, that schedules the same officer(s) throughout the building during the same days
could help in this regard. Maybe, even giving the officer teams certain days to testify at
preliminary hearings or bench trials could help. The issue then would be getting the defendants’
cases done in a timely manner so as not to infringe on their speedy trial rights. You have given
me something to think more about.
6. The criminal justice system works, but not 100% of the time. Nothing can be 100% all the time,
but it can always be better. In part, it is the role of the individual lawyer, regardless of which
side, plays a significant role. Some ADAs are more open to listening to defense counsel when
there has been a bad arrest and will investigate it. Others will not. Likewise, some defense
lawyers will try to get their clients’ who have been falsely accused out of the situation
immediately, while others will not. As a judge, you can only deal with what is presented to you
by the lawyers, witnesses or litigants. As a judge, I would not appoint lawyers to cases if I did not
think that they would represent their client properly.
If it became apparent, after the evidence presented in court, that something was amiss,
I would hope that a lawyer would make the appropriate objection or motion. I would need to be
confronted with the situation where the evidence was so flagrantly against the Commonwealth
that I would need to decide to intervene sua sponte if a lawyer was not doing their job properly
to know what I would do. More likely than not, I would address it with the lawyers, and a court
reporter, at a sidebar or conference in the robing room. I believe that every sidebar, with very
few exceptions, should be recorded by a court reporter. If an exception existed, and it was
necessary, a record of it could be sealed.
I also believe judges should help mentor lawyers, especially young ones. I would do this
from the bench.
7. A judge should know all community resources, as well as the court resources and diversion
programs, for the needs of a person so that they can successfully re-enter and live in society. I
would have a list of resources handed out to each person at the close of their case. As a
neighborhood lawyer, I have always acted as a resource for my clients even long after their
cases have been done. Many have become family to me. I sit on TCRC board currently. I help
them find jobs and keep a running list of those available at all times. I help with housing. I help
with therapeutic support of all kinds. They have my cell phone if they need it at anytime when
they need someone to listen or encourage them. Being a judge would not be any different for
me, except the telephone. All discussions would need to take place in a courtroom or on a
virtual conference call (even after COVID) with all lawyers. I would have client status dates to
make sure they are on the right track, or to see if more or new assistance was needed. They
would also be encouraged to stay in touch at anytime via my courtroom, even if any sentence
was completed.
8. I have been a criminal defense lawyer since 1998. Prior to that, I did civil litigation. I wanted to
be a criminal defense lawyer since I was 6 years old. If you listen to people, feel their pain and
see what I have, you or a family member, do not need to have been incarcerated to understand
the situations in prisons. I listen to their families and loved ones too. Likewise, I represent
victims of crimes or their families. The job of a judge is to listen to a case, control a courtroom
and follow the law. Every case, like every defendant, is unique. Each case is fact dependent.
9. I think that the detainer process can be sped up. I also believe that each case needs to be
decided on the merits. Technical detainers particularly can be addressed quickly.
10. Judges can only decide cases that are assigned to them. Likewise, they can only help those
whose cases have come before them. If a defendant in my courtroom is found guilty, and has an
addiction, then that person will get the help appropriate for their needs including any addiction.
11. Some cases do not belong in dependency court, but DHS got involved. Others, belong, but DHS
refuses to get involved. Then, you have the ones that do belong. The dependency system needs
some overhauling in many ways which may not just be the court end of it. Some workers are
awesome. Some might be better in a different role or job. Dependency judges can help move
the overburdened Philadelphia system quicker in some cases. In others, judges cannot do
anything to move them faster. To some extent, this is because of the nature of the case or the
parent(s) who do not do what they need to. We need more dependency judges than we
currently have to help sort through the cases, decide them and address the backlog. The long
term affects on the children, depending on what they dealt with at home, and/or in the foster
care system, obviously can be devastating and lifelong. The children’s health (physical and
mental), safety and welfare are of paramount importance. A judge, again, must decide each on a
case-by-case basis. Each case may have something unique about it that could help move the
process faster. A judge should offer suggestions to the lawyers and DHS, CUA or other workers
to help move each case forward as quickly, and painlessly for the all involved, as possible.
12. The law dictates what criminal convictions play a role in custody cases. Looking at the factors, at
the time of a custody matter, is case dependent. Recency of a drug and/or criminal conviction,
type of drug and/or crime history, and other factors all bear on any custody decision. Knowing
how much weight to give a parent’s drug history or criminal record comes with experience. This
year will be my 34​th​ in practice as a lawyer.
13. The court’s role in domestic violence cases is to protect the one(s) harmed or to find the falsely
accused not guilty. A judge must know the difference. A case-by-case analysis is mandated.
Personal experience does not come into play. I can say that I have represented people who had
undiagnosed battered person’s syndrome, as well as those who were falsely accused, and
anyone in between.
14. As a defense lawyer, I have done this. If the lawyers come to an agreement, and it is appropriate
in that case, I would likely accept the negotiated plea. I cannot say that it would happen in every
case, as no facts are given in your question. I can say that I would apply the law fairly to the best
of my ability in every matter regardless.
15. Yes. I know plenty of people that are undocumented. Being a judge, and making decisions,
should not be dependent upon whether someone is documented or not, except in the situation
in number 14 above. However, I do think judges have a responsibility to make it more widely
known that undocumented people should not be afraid to utilize the courts, or testify as
witnesses, as needed.
16. Regardless of race and/or sex, trauma should be considered by a judge in criminal matters and
sentencing. I appreciate getting every person any type of help, assistance and support that they
17. To say that a person under 18 should “never” be prosecuted as an adult is not the judge’s role.
The initial decision is up to the DAO. If the DAO chooses to prosecute a minor as an adult, it is up
to the defense lawyer to show why the child should be decertified back to juvenile court. A
judge decides based upon the evidence presented.
18. Philadelphia currently has a pro bono lawyer in landlord-tenant court to help unrepresented
tenants. I believe, more than one a day per L-T courtroom may be needed. As a judge, I would
want to ensure that the lawyer had ample opportunity with each client to properly represent
the client. That being said, as a lawyer I have seen some tenants represent themselves well.
Foreclosures are a different court and a different process. There is bankruptcy court; tax court;
and a special foreclosure court.
19. I have represented tenants, and some landlords, in both situations. A judge needs to decide the
facts. A judge is supposed to set aside his/her/their own experiences and apply the law to the
facts presented. A judge can delve into some facts for clarification only if they have additional
20. If a tenant, regardless of success or not, later brought a case to get the original L-T ​filing
“expunged”, or sealed, then I would decide that issue.
21. Yes. I have an LLC that rents to my law firm. Otherwise, no.
22. The judiciary needs to ensure that service of process was made which may entail ensuring that
the address of the alleged debtor was accurate. Additionally, there may be statute of limitation
issues which could divest a court of jurisdiction even to enter a default judgment. As a judge, I
would look at those before pro forma entering a judgment of any type.
23. A judge should decide a case on the facts and law period. A judge is not the legislature or
prosecutor. While a judge should never condone racism, nor discrimination, a judge has no
control over lending practices unless there is a case raising the same before the judge.
Furthermore, those types of cases usually go to federal court under both federal and state
consumer protection laws.
24. See my very first answer. And, yes.
25. The community would be welcome to sit in my courtroom at any time. They would also be free
to comment. I believe that the community should be able to give feedback to a judge, not about
a particular case or decision as that is not permitted due to appeals, etc., but about the process
generally. I also think that the public should pay more attention at retention time for judges.
When judges come up for retention, they never are questioned or campaign. I have an idea for
a feedback method, but I am still working on some of the kinks as judges are in a different
position than other elected officials. I am open to any suggestions on how to accomplish judicial
accountability and not violate the laws and rules applicable.

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