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Prepared By: __Sherrie Cohen____ Phone/Email:__

Campaign Manager: Sherrie Cohen Phone/Email:__

Candidate Name: __Sherrie Cohen_________________________________________________

Campaign Address: _________________________

Campaign Email: __ __ Campaign Website: _N/A________________

I, _____________/s/ Sherrie Cohen_________________________, 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

My statements throughout this questionnaire are my personal views. They do not represent a
pledge, promise or commitment to reach a particular result in any case, nor would they affect the
outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any court. I acknowledge the
overarching judicial obligation to apply and uphold the law, without regard to my personal


1. What are your top three priorities if you are elected judge? 1) I am an abolitionist

candidate for judge! I would work with colleagues in the court and alongside

Philadelphia’s Black-led multiracial mass liberation movement to: shrink the footprint of

the carceral state by reducing mass incarceration, work to heal the harm caused to Black,

Latinx and people of color communities by the criminal punishment system, push to shift

resources to community-led transformative and restorative justice initiatives, and

reimagine humane solutions to the crises caused by anti-Blackness, racial capitalism, and

cisheteropatriarchy; 2) To ensure due process and equal access to justice in my

courtroom, I would adopt a proactive role in hearings with pro se litigants in consumer

credit cases and pro se tenants in landlord tenant cases, in order to mitigate the profound

imbalance of power between the parties, and protect the rights of vulnerable litigants; 3) I

would lead a trauma-responsive courtroom which honors the humanity and dignity of all

who come before the court.

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 and explicit bias are foundational to our court system. I

think the courts need to undergo periodic anti-racism training and assess how their

policies and procedures, and that of their partners, the police and prosecutors, perpetuate

anti-Blackness, bias, and poverty; determine with community partners how they will be

accountable to and heal the harms caused to Black, Latinx and other people of color;

commit to reducing racial disparities in every aspect of their operation and courtrooms;

examine their conscious and unconscious biases, in order to recognize them and take

corrective action; visit city jails and state prisons a few times each year; and, be educated

on the histories and lives of Black, Latinx and all people of color and low-income

communities in this city. After all, how can you sit in judgment if you have so little

understanding of the lives of the people who come before you?

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? I would ensure that my staff and I

participate in ongoing anti-bias, anti-racism and sexual harassment training. I would

inform my staff and litigants, at the outset of every hearing, that my courtroom is a space

where no racist or sexist behavior will be tolerated and that if they experience this, they

are to inform me immediately.

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

rampant in Philadelphia and there is virtually no accountability. Misconduct ranges from

unconstitutional stop and frisk to robbing drug dealers to brutality to tampering with

evidence to falsifying reports to writing racist and sexist posts on social media. To
address this issue, courts must be willing to hold officers accountable in police

misconduct cases. And, a judge who finds that a police officer’s testimony is not truthful,

should put that finding on the record. Last year, the New York state court system

launched a pilot program to keep track of lying by officers. Philadelphia should do the


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 could

return to the districts for preliminary hearings. That would reduce police overtime


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. No, I do not believe our system works. It is a white supremacist punitive system

that must be reimagined and transformed. The United States ​is the world’s largest jailer.

Per capita, Philadelphia incarcerates more people than any other of the 10 largest cities in

the U.S. In 2016, 47 percent of Pennsylvania’s prison population was Black, but only 10

percent of our adult state population was. Overpolicing, mass incarceration and the

prison industrial complex need to end, as do racially disproportionate police stops in

Black and Latinx communities, racial bias in prosecution and incarceration, the school to

prison pipeline, the trying of youth as adults, wealth-based detention, death by

incarceration and the city’s expansive parole and probation supervision regimes. To
change this system, as a judge, I would: 1) offer alternatives to incarceration, and support

the creation of new alternatives designed by formerly incarcerated people; 2) provide

short time limits to parole and probation supervision, and 3) enforce constitutional

limitations on stop and frisk.

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

support successful community re-entry? Every year, 25,000 people return to the city from

jails and prison. In 2015, 33.9% of those released were re-arrested within a year. When

people return home, too often they lack access to social, financial, and educational

resources, as well as affordable housing, employment, physical and mental health care,

and treatment programs for substance abuse. I believe judges can best support successful

re-entry by limiting the time period of probation and parole sentences, as probation and

parole, with their onerous conditions, are major drivers of reincarceration. Judges can

also help provide access to resources that would aid successful re-entry. I would like to

see re-entry programs designed by formerly incarcerated people to address what they

need to stay free, and to help access economic necessities such as income, employment

and housing.

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, through the No More Cages newsletter, I began writing

to a woman at SCI-Muncy. We became friends when she returned home and we started a

group of formerly incarcerated women and co-conspirators, and published a series of

newsletters containing poems, short stories and articles written by women who were
serving time at Muncy or had come home from there. That work led us to convene

attorneys to file a class action suit on behalf of the women at Muncy. We sought to open

a law clinic there, improve educational, vocational, medical, psychological and

rehabilitative services, and protect women from exposure to fire hazards and asbestos.

Having been close to a formerly incarcerated person will affect my work as a judge,

because that friendship gave me some understanding of the experiences and traumas of

justice-involved people.

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? I think this is horrendous. Philadelphia is among the most supervised jurisdictions in

the nation. Pennsylvania has the second highest percentage of people on probation and

parole in the country, with one out of 34 adults monitored by the county probation and

parole department. Supervision can last for years or decades because Pennsylvania

remains one of the few states that fails to cap the length of time people can be sentenced

to probation. These lengthy probation sentences are unnecessary and disproportionate.

People charged with technical violations of probation and parole fill our prisons and jails

and, as with so many other aspects of our criminal punishment system, racial disparities

plague probation and parole revocations. I believe that only judges should be allowed to

lodge detainers, not probation officers, and the rules should contain a presumption that no

detainer is to be lodged for lower level offenses.

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? I support harm

reduction initiatives and agree with the lower court’s decision that made safe injection

sites legal in Philadelphia, where three people a day are dying from drug overdoses. As a

judge, my courtroom would be trauma-responsive, and my staff and I would be trained on

opioid addiction and treatment, would refer people with substance use disorders to

appropriate treatment and how to access needle exchange programs, Narcan distribution,

and overdose prevention sites. Within and beyond the court, I would advocate for needed

funding to support these resources, for prevention strategies with youth, to expand

diversion options for people with substance use disorders, and to encourage more judges

to get training on the issues of substance use disorders and trauma to better understand

the needs of drug users.

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? This nation exercises disproportionate control of Black bodies through the criminal

punishment system in the same way as it exercises disproportionate control of Black

families through the foster care system. In 2016, Black families were 6.3 times more

likely than white families to be investigated by child welfare authorities. That year, 43%

of Black youth age 14 and older in PA were in foster care, compared to 33% of all youth

age 14 and older in PA, and 25% of all youth age 14 and older across the U.S. The foster

system does not achieve the laudable goal it claims of family and child protection.
Research shows that the families involved have worse outcomes than those in the general

population, including higher incarceration rates, poorer health, more instability and a

greater incidence of behavioral issues. The label of neglectfulness given to poor families

and disproportionately Black mothers by the foster system relates more to the conditions

of poverty than to maltreatment by the parents. For example, nearly 30% of children

could be reunited with their families if their parents had access to housing. Courts must

reverse this racist violence of family separation by offering in-home supports to families

in order to keep them intact, and seeking out kinship care under circumstances of abuse

where removal might truly be warranted.

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

custody matter? A court will consider many factors to determine what custody

arrangement is in the best interest of the children. These factors include: which party is

more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child

and the other party; the parents’ mental and physical condition; the need for stability and

continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life; the preference of the

child; which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing

relationship with the child that is adequate for the child’s emotional needs; and, which

party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational

and special needs of the child. A court will also give weighted consideration to those

factors which affect the safety of the child. While a parent’s drug history and record of

certain statutorily enumerated criminal offenses must also be considered, if these factors

do not negatively impact the safety and wellness of the child, I would not give them

weight in my deliberations.
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 have been

subjected to intimate partner violence (IPV). I don’t believe that the criminal punishment

system is the answer. Increased reliance on this system in recent decades has not lowered

rates of IPV, has worsened conditions that spur on that violence, has not brought healing,

and has increased criminalization. I would like to see more survivor-focused

trauma-informed, community-designed programs developed that are based in restorative

justice, transformative justice and/or community accountability. These programs would

be voluntary, not part of a plea deal, and could be recommended by judges.

As a society, we need to intervene to prevent the childhood traumas that can lead

to violence in adulthood, and stop violence before it starts rather than intervening

ineffectually after the fact. We also need to craft non-police intervention mechanisms for

situations of imminent violence, and provide survivors with immediate and long-term


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, to both. Philadelphia is a Sanctuary City and we

must protect undocumented community members from detention and deportation. The

First Judicial District is not an immigration court and must not be permitted to be used as


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 have a family

member who is undocumented, and when he lived with me, he lived with a lot of fear of

deportation. Also, as a supporter of immigrant rights, and through friends, I have gotten

to know many undocumented people. These experiences will shape my work as a judge,

because I have learned so much from their lives and the traumas they have suffered.

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? I will lead a trauma-responsive courtroom and will

see the people who come before me through a trauma lens. I would definitely consider

alternatives to incarceration for people who have experienced trauma. There are about a

dozen diversionary programs in existence at this time. Two are the most accessible: the

Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) and the Accelerated Misdemeanor

Program (AMP). They are for “first time offenders” primarily and those facing minor

misdemeanor charges like drug possession or DUI. Many of the other diversionary

programs, like veteran’s court, drug court, and mental health court, have very specific

eligibility requirements to enter. Many of these diversionary programs allow records to

be expunged upon program completion. Most programs also require probation, treatment,

classes, and community service.

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? No, I don’t believe that children should be treated legally as adults. Any

amount of time in adult jail makes a young person under 18 more likely to be arrested

again in the future. Youth in adult jails have a greater chance of victimization and death

and are more likely to attempt suicide than youth in a juvenile facility. Little or no

education, mental health treatment or rehabilitative programming exists for youth in adult

facilities. With an adult criminal record, a young adult’s chance to further his or her

education and find a job will be negatively impacted.

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? Philly needs a former tenant rights

attorney in the First Judicial District! To help stop the eviction and foreclosure avalanche,

I would, as a judge, adopt a proactive role in hearings involving pro se tenants or pro se

homeowners, in order to mitigate the profound imbalance of power, generally, between

the parties, and to protect the rights of vulnerable litigants. I would inform litigants of the

court’s procedures, available diversion programs, opportunities to get counsel and rental

Judges can support the implementation of the Right to Counsel legislation by

making sure that unrepresented tenants in their courtroom know about this right and how

to access it. We can also speak out in public on the importance of such legislation and the

importance of fully funding it, as well as the urgent need to extend the eviction


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, I had a family member who lost his job, was evicted for non-payment of rent, and

then lost almost all of his belongings when he was evicted. He moved in with his parents

briefly, got sick and died shortly thereafter in the hospital. Though he had a pre-existing

health condition, this sequence of events and his early death at age 43 was tragic. I have

also worked as a tenant rights counselor at the Tenant Union Representative Network,

where I staffed the Landlord/Tenant Help Desk at Municipal Court, taught tenant rights

classes and counseled tenants at our office. In addition, I worked as a tenant rights

attorney at a law firm, suing landlords for failure to provide lead-safe homes to families

with young children under 7 years of age. Through my work as a tenant rights attorney, I

represented, taught and/or counseled hundreds of tenants. Evictions are violence, as are

illegal lockouts, lead-contaminated homes and dilapidated or moldy substandard housing.

The staff at TURN lived with secondary trauma, because every day we heard from

tenants about their painful experiences, as they tried to survive and live with dignity.

These experiences will shape my work as a judge, as I learned from the lives of so many

tenants in Philadelphia.
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? In Philadelphia, 70% of evictions are filed

against women of color, predominantly Black women. When landlords screen out tenants

based on eviction filings, they are disproportionately blacklisting Black women. This

blanket ban, that categorically denies the application of any tenant with a prior eviction

filing, is in violation of the Fair Housing Act, because it disproportionately harms Black

tenants, and particularly Black women. The court must push for a rule, as Community

Legal Services suggests, through the Minor Court Rules Committee of the PA Supreme

Court, for the sealing of eviction records, especially for cases that were dismissed or

decided in favor of the tenant, and for cases older than five years. City and state

legislative action is also needed.

21. Are you a landlord? If yes, how many rental properties do you own? No.

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?

Instead of helping debt buyers use the courts as debt collection mills, the court must

apply greater scrutiny to protect the rights of the vulnerable and ensure due process for

unrepresented defendants. Courts must also consider the tangible impact these lawsuits

can have on the ability of poor families to meet basic needs and the inability of many

defendants to access competent legal representation or advice. To the extent permitted by

existing state law, the state court system should 1) adopt rules requiring debt buyers and

other creditors to provide meaningful evidence in support of their legal claims; 2) adopt

rules empowering and requiring courts to apply meaningful and proactive scrutiny to the

claims at issue in all debt collection lawsuits and the evidence in support of them, before

issuing a default judgment; 3) adopt rules providing that to supplement the notice

provided directly by plaintiffs, courts will independently mail the notices of the debt

buyer and other debt collection lawsuits to the defendants using information provided by

plaintiffs; and 4) require that all notices, including that provided by plaintiffs, include

information about where defendants can turn for legal assistance or independent legal


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 must analyze the racial disparities in the debt collection system and seek to

eliminate them. In order to protect alleged debtors against unconstitutional, abusive and

racist debt collection practices, the judiciary can push for rule changes within the courts

that would: prohibit the issuance of arrest warrants in debt collection cases, provide

effective notice of the post-judgment hearing and alternative means of appearance, ensure

due process protections at post-judgment hearings, prohibit courts from issuing orders to

pay, and ensure due process protections for defendants in debt collection lawsuits to

reduce default judgments.

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
gather on a regular basis with activists, policymakers, and directly impacted people, who

are working on the same issues that judges address every day in court, in order to explore

ideas and concerns, and proposals for changes in the law and in the courthouse. For

example, the judges who work in landlord tenant court should meet with tenants, tenant

activists and policymakers. Similarly, criminal court judges should meet with formerly

incarcerated people, mass liberation activists and policymakers. I will do this if elected

judge. Also, the courts must improve their language access capabilities, and report to the

community regarding the equity work they are engaged in pursuant to the Center for

Urban and Racial Equity’s Equity Organizational Assessment Report.

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 would welcome

monthly or quarterly meetings with the Judicial Accountability Table to discuss any and

all issues of concern.

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