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Prepared By: Barbara Thomson, Esq.


Campaign Manager: Sara Rice Phone/Email:

Candidate Name: Barbara Thomson, Esq.

Campaign Address:

Campaign Email: Campaign Website:

I, Barbara Thomson, Esq., 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 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.

1 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 Elections:

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?

 Fairness

 Opportunity to be Heard/Respect

 Equity

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

should be addressed?

Yes, it has. The best way for a Municipal Judge to address this is to consider the

background and circumstances of each person as he/she/they come into court. In

particular, I’m concerned for pro se litigants and the first offenders who may not

understand that the Municipal Court judgment can have an affect on the rest of their

lives. While the Municipal Court is expected to be navigable by people without legal

representation, the fact that they are in adversarial situation against seasoned attorneys

puts them at a disadvantage. In addition, I’m concerned about people who are in court
for their first offenses and may not understand the long-term consequences their pleas

have on their lives. I will treat people with fairness and respect, as well as explain what

is happening so that they understand the impact that a Municipal Court judgment has

on their lives.

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 lead by example by not treating people differently based on their race or

gender. I would also seek to implement hiring committees for court staff that consider

the merit of the individuals and provide fairness in the hiring process and, when needed,

I would seek to discipline employees appropriately who exhibit racist or sexist behavior.

Throughout my career, I have been developing such committees at the New York City

Transit Authority and at Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority as I

represented them at labor relations contract disputes and disciplinary actions against

employees who treated people inappropriately and by-passed hiring procedures.

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?

I believe that police misconduct is a problem in our criminal justice system – as is

all misconduct, including misconduct by attorneys. When misconduct exists, it

undermines the credibility of our justice system. The courts are able to consider the

appropriateness of the conduct of the criminal process and when evidence is obtained

illegally, it should not be admitted. Furthermore, when there is evidence of police

misconduct, I believe the courts have a duty to refer the matter to Police Department’s
Internal Affairs Division and/or the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, the

Pennsylvania Bar Association, and/or to the US Department of Justice where


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 have an obligation to run efficiently. They should start on time, take

reasonable time for breaks, and end promptly.

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.

In general, I believe our criminal justice system works; however, I believe there

are implicit biases and issues of equity within the system that must be addressed. Three

ways I would work to change it as a judge include: treating the defendants with the

respect and dignity they deserve; using Diversion and Treatment Programs as a tool to

reduce recidivism and improve the quality of life in the city and reduce overall crime;

and holding the officers of the court and the police accountable for their actions when

misconduct occurs.

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

support successful community re-entry?

While I believe that re-entry begins at sentencing, judges can support successful

re-entry into the community by participating in programs to help advise people on their

rights for expungement, support job placement, apprenticeships, housing, and financial

planning. I also support having events with the City of Philadelphia Municipal ID Card so

that people have access to a secure, affordable photo ID card that is accepted

throughout the city when people apply for jobs.

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 do have someone close to me who was incarcerated. The incarceration

made it virtually impossible for her to find a job above the minimum wage and a way of

supporting herself after she completed her time in jail. In this situation, the root of the

problem was addiction. She lost her privileges to practice nursing and lost relationships

with her family. As a judge, I would consider treatment programs, such as Self Help

where I sat on the board for many years and validation of 12-Step Program Meeting

attendance before sending someone to prison or jail.

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 believe that probation detainers are problematic and should only be used when

there is the person is a flight risk or a danger to the community. There are people who
spend time in jail when they are unjustly accused of a crime and lose their jobs,

livelihoods, and families as a result.

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?

Judges can help expand and protect programs to combat the opioid crisis and

continue to reduce harm by directing people to treatment, such as Self Help a drug and

alcohol treatment rehabilitation center in the northeast. I disagree with the Court of

Appeals for the Third Circuit overturning the lower court’s decision that a supervised

injection site would violate federal law. I believe that supervised injection sites save lives

and prevent overdoses.

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?

Foster care is intended to be a short-term solution where a child is adopted or

reunited with its biological family once the situation is deemed safe. The long-term

effects of long-term foster care include higher rates of behavioral, emotional, and

financial problems, as well as higher risks of sex trafficking and drug abuse. They also
have a higher risk of homelessness, incarceration, and dependency on the government

to meet basic needs. Judges can help avoid this by supporting family connections,

supporting youth who are transitioning from foster care, and ensuring that children in

foster care are receiving an education and health care.

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

custody matter?

The child’s safety is paramount. A judge must consider the best-interests of the

child and whether the parent has participated in drug treatment and whether his/her

efforts to rehabilitate have been successful.

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 known someone who was subjected to domestic violence. I believe

the court’s role is to coordinate with victim protective services and provide a safe

environment in the courthouse for the victims.

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?

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

together to resolve cases that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences.

Judges have an obligation to explain to people when their pleas may result in
deportation. I would accept immigration-neutral plea agreements and/or sentence

defendants to allow them 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 many people who are undocumented. I, specifically, worked with the

City of Philadelphia to develop and implement the Philadelphia Municipal Photo ID Card

– an optional, secure, and affordable photo identification card for anyone living in

Philadelphia. For many, this provides the first and only government-issued ID in this

country. It also acts as a library card. As a judge, I would understand that people without

documentation are fearful of interactions with police, governments, and schools

because they risk deportation. The ID Card helps them assimilate into the City more

easily, seek employment, and use the free library.

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 a judge, I would understand that trauma affects people negatively and I would

consider all mitigating factors. Alternatives for incarceration include diversionary

programs that decrease recidivism and improve a person’s well-being. The programs

may include mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, and victim protective

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?

I do not believe that children under 18 should ever be treated legally as adults.

They have not matured mentally. The long-term impacts of incarcerating children in

adult jails and prisons results in irreparable harm to the child and his/her/their mental

development, as well as potential sexual and physical abuse.

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?

As a judge, I would seek to counsel the pro se parties before they agree to

judgments that will lead to their eviction and potential financial ruin. Judges can support

the implementation of the Right to Counsel legislation to ensure fair representation by

explaining their rights and how the judgments will affect them for decades.
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, I know many people who been evicted or foreclosed on. I have this

experience from working with the City of Philadelphia to open the Hub of Hope a

homeless day shelter where people can receive respite from the weather, get a meal,

wash their clothes, take a shower, seek medical treatment and in-take services. As a

judge, I understand that homelessness can be a result of eviction or foreclosure. I have

also been intimately involved in helping a homeless person seek shelter voluntarily by

introducing the person to available community organizations such as Project Home.

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?

As a judge, I would like to see a procedure whereby the judge can review the

recording of a filing and determine if there are mitigating factors that could pre-empt

their filing. Permanent public records that are available to future landlords may result in

long-term homelessness, which is detrimental for the tenant, the community, and the


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


The judiciary ensures due process for unrepresented defendants in these civil

matters by hearing the cases and considering the inequity as well as mitigating factors in

these situations. Furthermore, in small claims cases where someone may be acting pro

se, I will explain the situation and the effect of the long-term effects of the judgments.

23. 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?

This is a result of systemic racism. Predatory lending is illegal. The judiciary must

consider whether there was proper service and whether a debt is actually owed; was

the “debt” incurred fraudulently; was there an opportunity to cure; and are there are

mitigating circumstances.

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 can be more transparent by welcoming the public and interacting in

public forums with community groups and schools. I believe that many people do not

understand the importance and gravity Municipal Court has on a person’s life. I commit

to educating the public through local and city-wide meetings about the role Municipal
Court can have in someone’s life, especially as it is often the first contact someone has

with the court 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?

I welcome the Philadelphia community to hold me accountable for being fair,

having integrity, and respecting everyone. I encourage the JAT, other community

groups, and individuals to meet with me regularly to discuss my actions and new issues

that arise in the city. Judges also must comply with the Code of Judicial Conduct. Finally,

the vote of retention holds judges accountable to the public.

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