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Prepared By: ​Nick Kamau, Esquire Phone/Email:

Campaign Manager: ​Marisa Piccaretto Phone/Email:

Candidate Name: ​Nick Kamau, Esquire

Campaign Address:

Campaign Email: Campaign Website: ​

I, ​ /s/ Nicholas Kamau , 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
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?

Priority No. 1:​ ​Implement restorative justice penalties.​ As judge, I will prioritize imposing
sentences which are designed to help offenders address the underlying issues which brought
them into the justice system by leveraging government and community-based service. I will
also ensure victims receive robust support services to help them recover from the harm they
suffered and gain a sense of justice and closure.

Priority No. 2:​ ​Reduce Philadelphia’s inmate population​. I will make it a priority to release
non-violent pre-trial detainees on supervised release. This will allow defendants to
participate in the defense of their case from the community with the assistance of their
attorney, family and support systems. Additionally, I will monitor the dockets and where
appropriate, lift probation detainers for individuals on my probation who are in custody for
new, non-violent offenses.

Priority No. 3:​ ​Make Unbiased Credibility Determinations and Foster Transparency​. An
essential component of adjudicating cases in the criminal justice system is assessing the
credibility of witnesses during pre-trial hearings and bench trials. During motions to
suppress evidence, testimony from witnesses are subject to credibility determinations by the
judge. Too often judges accept the testimony from law enforcement officers and
Commonwealth expert witnesses without scrutinizing the veracity of the testimony. As
judge, I will assess the credibility of testimony from all witnesses, including defendants, lay
witnesses, expert witnesses and law enforcement officers, with the same level of scrutiny.
When law enforcement officers provide pretextual rationale for conducting warrantless
searches, I will make it a priority to suppress the evidence which was unlawfully obtained.
Additionally, in order to foster transparency in the justice system, I will author detailed
opinions which will be publicly available. Furthermore, as judge, I will create a database of
the testimony from witnesses who regularly appear in my courtroom. The information
contained in the database can be referenced the future assessment of the witnesses credibility.

2. Do you feel that implicit bias plays a role in our courts? If so, how do you think it
should be addressed?
While justice is blind and should be applied irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual
orientation or economic status, it is administered by judges and jurors who have their
own set of experiences, preconceptions, and bias. In the First Judicial District racism is a
significant problem as documented in the 2018 CURE Report.

In order to address the implicit bias within our courts, First Judicial District leadership
must acknowledge that the institution has a problem with racism and sexism, and adopt a
no tolerance policy to root out judges and court employees who exhibit problematic
behavior. Implicit bias and sensitivity training should be a regular and ongoing priority.
Minority judges who are committed to changing the racist and sexist culture within the
courts should be promoted to leadership positions. Additionally, Philadelphia needs to
elect more judges from racial minority groups who have the experiences and perspective
to understand historic and contemporary systemic prejudice and the impact it has on
those who work in and come into contact with the justice system.

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?
Committed to fighting against systems of injustice, I have represented poor and
underserved individuals and communities throughout my professional career and
witnessed the inequitable treatment of people who are poor and from underserved
communities. I am running for judicial office to ensure justice is administered equitably
regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and economic status. As a judge,
I will adopt a no tolerance policy for racist or sexist behavior.

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, I believe police misconduct is a problem in our criminal justice system. The
Philadelphia Police Department targets poor and minority communities and its officers
routinely engage in unconstitutional and extra judicial, pretextual detentions, searches
and seizures. These policies lead to a disproportionate number of Black Philadelphian’s
being incarcerated in Philadelphia’s jails, primarily for low-level, non-violent offenses.
In Philadelphia, 80% of the total population in city jails are Black, while only 50% of the
city’s overall population is Black.

Philadelphia has a culture of mutual mistrust between law enforcement and the
communities they are sworn to protect and serve. This mistrust leads to hostility and too
frequently violence and abuse of member of the community. As neutral arbiters of
justice, judges do not have the authority to charge police officers for engaging in criminal
misconduct. Rather, the District Attorney, as an entity of the executive branch of
government is provided with the authority to present the court with criminal charges.
Police officers who engage in criminal misconduct should be held accountable and
prosecuted by the District Attorney in the same manner as civilians who engage in
criminal behavior. While judges cannot charge police officers with criminal behavior,
they can create well-documented records for use in future proceeding wherein the victims
of police misconduct may sue the Police Department or the offending officer in civil

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
The First Judicial District and its judges have no role in setting the budget for the Police
Department. Judges have no control over the manner in which the Police Department
compensates its officers. Indeed, City Counsel, the Mayor, and the Police Commissioner
make budgetary and executive decisions regarding the allocation of tax dollars for use by
the Police Department and its officers.

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.
Our criminal justice system enforces laws, ordinances and regulations which are
necessary to protect the health and safety of Philadelphians. Without an established
system to enforce the law, Philadelphia could devolve into disorder and anarchy. While I
believe that systems of justice are necessary to a functioning society, I do not believe that
the criminal justice system works equitably for all people. The disparate impact of the
criminal justice system on Black and underserved communities is a reflection of a social
structure which marginalizes underserved communities of color. With underfunded
schools, a lack of meaningful employment, an unlivable minimum wage, fractured
community support structures, etc., the criminal justice system reflects a failure to
protect, promote and provide the basic systems needed for marginalized residents to

As judge, I will leverage government and community-based resources to help address the
root cause of what brought individuals into the criminal justice system. Where
appropriate, I will impose restorative sentences to help improve the circumstances of the
offender, victims, families and communities. I will utilize job training, education
services, and job placement to help those who have become trapped in the criminal
justice system improve their circumstances.

7. One in three Philadelphians has a criminal record. In your opinion, how can judges
support successful community re-entry?
Judges have a tremendous amount of discretion regarding the outcomes that offenders on
their probation receive. As judge, I will provide my probationers with the opportunity to
receive early probation termination to encourage compliance and commitment to
self-improvement. Offenders who know their supervising judge cares about their
progress and who have community and family support structures, experience
significantly better outcomes than those without such support. As judge I will seek to
provide guidance, support, governmental resources and community-based programs to
help re-entering offenders achieve success.

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, I have had close relationships with people who have been incarcerated. I believe the
most precious gift we have is our freedom, the loss of which can have devastating effects
on the physical, emotional and spiritual health of an individual, their family and

Judges should be acutely aware of the gravity that their prison sentences have on
individuals and communities. Judges should impose prison sentences only after
considering the whole person, their life’s experiences and what caused them to commit
the offense for which they are facing incarceration. As judge, I will approach the
imposition of incarceration with deliberation, care and analysis.

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 this?
When an individual on probation is arrested for allegedly committing a new criminal
offense, a probation detainer is automatically lodged without consulting the judge who
supervises the probationer. It is incumbent on all judges who supervise probationers to
ensure they are not being held in jail unnecessarily. As judge, I will monitor the dockets
to identify any of my probationers who are in custody on new arrests. Where
appropriate, I will release the detainer, thereby allowing the probationer an opportunity to
participate in their own defense from their community with the assistance of legal
counsel, their family and support structures.

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
In the First Judicial District, judges have no authority to advocate for or against needle
exchange programs, Narcan distribution centers or overdose prevention sites. These
programs are legislative and executive functions. The Court of Appeals for the Third
Circuit recently ruled that a Philadelphia “safe injection site” was well intended, but
violative of established Federal law. While I understand the Third Circuit’s rationale and
agree the needle exchange program was inconsistent with Federal law, I believe that the
opioid epidemic calls for innovative solutions and that states and municipalities should
have the latitude to implement policies which are rationally related to a justified public
interest. Addiction is a widely accepted public health issue which should not be
criminalized. As judge I will utilize second chance and alternative forms of adjudication
for individuals accused of criminal offenses stemming from addiction, mental health
issues or homelessness.

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 this?
The number of children placed in foster care is emblematic of the same failed education,
economic and social structure in which Philadelphia incarcerates a larger percentage of
its residents than any other large city in the country. Abused and neglected children are
the most vulnerable class of people in society. I believe that it is necessary to protect
these children and remove them from dangerous and unhealthy homes. Early
intervention for high-risk families must be prioritized to prevent abuse and neglect
thereby keeping children safe and families united. Judges must take the time to
understand the root cause of the problems which brought the families into the system, and
with care and patience, help the families work toward creating a safe and healthy
environment for children.

12. How would you factor in a parent's drug history or criminal record in dealing with
a custody matter?
When dealing with custody matters, judges are to consider what is in the best interest of
the child. If a parent is able to provide a safe, healthy and emotionally nurturing
environment, a remote history of drug use and/or criminal record should not prevent them
from being a custodial parent.

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?
Yes, I know and have experience with people who were the subject of domestic violence.
When someone is a victim of domestic violence the courts should ensure the victim is
made safe and offenders are adjudicated in accordance with applicable laws.

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
Yes, I think it is appropriate for prosecutors, judges and criminal defense attorneys to
work together to resolve cases in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration
Would you accept immigration-neutral plea agreements and/or sentence defendants
to allow them to avoid deportation?
Yes. As judge, I would accept immigration-neutral plea agreements and/or sentences
help defendants 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 undocumented immigrants. My relationship with them would have no
impact on my work as a judge as my belief in inalienable human rights is not contingent
on these relationships.

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?
As judge, I will look at the whole person, not just the offense they committed or the harm
they suffered. I will impose penalties based on a restorative justice model and in every
case, attempt to address the root cause of the issues which brought them into the justice
system. If counseling, mental health treatment, drug treatment, or other services are
appropriate, I will attempt to find the best governmental and/or community-based
programs to help the individual get the help they need to lead a more productive and
fulfilling life.

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 prisons?
Children should not be charged as adults. It is well documented that the human brain is
not fully developed until approximately twenty-five (25) years of age. Charging a child
as an adult is inherently unjust and contrary to the cornerstones of American
jurisprudence which requires knowledge and intent to hold an offender accountable for
their actions. Children who are incarcerated in adult jails and prisons are often unable to
adequately defend themselves and become targets for physical and sexual abuse. These
children suffer emotional harm and life altering trauma. They become ill-equipped to
function in society when they re-integrate into the community and often reoffend.

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?
Thanks to the Right to Counsel legislation, passed by Philadelphia City Counsel in 2019,
low income tenants are guaranteed free legal representation which prevents the historic
exploitation by landlords who often have the resources to retain legal counsel during
eviction proceedings. As judge, I will ensure that every low-income tenant has received
legal representation if they so desire and will continue the eviction proceeding if
additional time is required to obtain counsel.
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
Yes, someone close to me has been evicted from their home. My relationship with them
and knowing their experience would not affect my work as a judge. As judge, I will be
fair to all parties who appear before me and will follow the law with honor and fidelity.

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?
The court has the ability to seal the public record and prevent future landlords from
obtaining information concerning the eviction proceeding. As judge I will provide the
parties with an opportunity to file a petition to seal the eviction record.

21. Are you a landlord? If yes, how many rental properties do you own?
My wife and I own a townhouse which we rent to a friend who maintains the property
and pays rent to cover the mortgage.

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
Under the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, service of process must be effectuated
by personal service. Judges should ensure that an affidavit of service has been filed and
that service satisfies the requirements enumerated under the rules. If unrepresented
defendants fail to respond to a complaint, the presiding judge can request the plaintiff
take additional steps to ensure the defendant is aware of the matter and understands the
requirement to answer the complaint to avoid default judgement. As judge, I will seek to
ensure that unrepresented defendants have actual knowledge of the proceeding and
provided with the opportunity to respond to the complaint.

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
The disproportionate number of consumer debt judgements against people in Black
neighborhoods, is a reflection of a failed economic and social structure which
marginalized Black and poor people. As judge, I will ensure that everyone receives equal
treatment regardless of race, nationality or economic status.

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?
Courtrooms are open to the public and judges should welcome attendance to all who are
interested in viewing the courts proceedings. As judge, I will publish my opinions and
memorialize my findings and decisions to foster greater transparency and public trust in
the justice system.

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?
As judge, I will publish my opinions and memorialize my findings and decisions to foster
greater transparency and public trust in the justice system. Additionally, I will keep a
running log of the cases I hear, the testimony offered and the outcomes of the cases.
Where appropriate, I will make this information available to the public.

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