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Prepared By: _____MJH______ Phone/Email:

Campaign Manager: __________________ Phone/Email:______________________________

Candidate Name: ______MAURICE JOHN HOUSTON

Campaign Address: 5902 Greene Street, PO BOX 48394, Phila., PA 19144

Campaign Email:
Campaign Website: mauricehoustonforjudge.godaddysites.com

I, ____Maurice Houston___________________________, certify that the information provided


(Signature)
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 rebecca.hufstader@gmail.com
and katia@reclaimphiladelphia.org on or before February 13, 2021.

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
https://judgeaccountabilitytable.org/platform/. 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.

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.
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
(CADBI)

QUESTIONS

1. What are your top three priorities if you are elected judge?

Answer: If elected as a judge for Court of Common Pleas then I would (a) promoting diversity and
inclusion throughout the legal system through hiring and staffing, (b) utilizing existing alternatives to
cash bail to decrease the impact of a defendant’s socioeconomic status on pre-trial release, and (c)
creating an environment that ensures that litigants, jurors, lawyers, court staff, and witnesses are
treated with respect.

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

addressed?

Answer: Yes, implicit bias is present in the court system. It would be disingenuous to suggest that the
judicial system is immune from implicit bias. It is imperative that judges actively work to eradicate
implicit bias from their decision-making process. I believe that through mandatory training, workshops
and education the impact of implicit bias on the judicial system can be reduced, managed and
controlled.

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?

Answer: If elected, I recognize that I am responsible for my conduct and the conduct of my staff.
Consequently, I would create an environment that promotes diversity and inclusion. I would educate
and inform staff, litigants and other stakeholders that racist or sexist behavior has no place in the judicial
system. I would create a safe-space that allows staff to discuss actions or activities that are inconsistent
with an inclusive environment.

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?

Answer: Answering this question may be perceived by a reasonable person as undermining my


independence or impartiality as a jurist and it may lead to frequent disqualification from cases or
matters that come before the bench. I am obligated to apply and uphold the law, regardless of my
personal views.

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?

Answer: Judges possess special expertise in matters of law, the legal system, and the administration of
justice, and may properly share that expertise, when appropriate, with governmental bodies and
executive or legislative branch officials to address scheduling of law enforcement officers for 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. Race and economics

Answer: Yes, however, the system is not perfect and needs improvement. Ideally our criminal justice
system should be colorblind. Unfortunately, it is not. One judicial system exists for the affluent and
white people and another exists for the socioeconomically disadvantaged and Black and Brown people.
The demonstrations that occurred last year provided concrete evidence that our judicial system needs
an infusion of public confidence. I would work to change the judicial system and regain public trust
through (a) promoting diversity and inclusion in the judiciary and legal system through staffing and
hiring practices; (b) educating the public on the importance of participating in the jury selection process
and (c) creating an environment that ensures that litigants, jurors, lawyers, court staff, and witnesses are
treated with respect.

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

successful community re-entry?

Answer: Judges can recommend that during the period of incarceration, an individual can receive mental
health services, if necessary, educational training and drug counseling, and anger management
counseling. Additionally, Judges can encourage community stakeholders and other members of the
justice system to provide returning citizens with access to job-readiness skills, community support
systems, including family members and religious institutions, and parole/ probation services with the
goal of reducing the rate recidivism.

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.

Answer: Answering this question may be perceived by a reasonable person as undermining my


independence or impartiality as a jurist and it may lead to frequent disqualification from cases or
matters that come before the bench. If elected, I am obligated to apply and uphold the law, regardless
of my personal views.

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?

Answer: Answering this question may be perceived by a reasonable person as undermining my


independence or impartiality as a jurist and it may lead to frequent disqualification from cases or
matters that come before the bench.

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?

Answer: Answering this question may be perceived by a reasonable person as undermining my


independence or impartiality as a jurist and it may lead to frequent disqualification from cases or
matters that come before the bench. If elected, I am obligated to apply and uphold the law, regardless
of my personal views. I will be objective, open-minded and will carry out my adjudicative duties
faithfully and impartially. If elected, I am obligated to apply and uphold the law, regardless of my
personal views. I am committed to creating an environment that ensures that stakeholders are treated
with respect and promotes access to justice for all.
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?

Answer: Answering this question may be perceived by a reasonable person as undermining my


independence or impartiality as a jurist and it may lead to frequent disqualification from cases or
matters that come before the bench. If elected, I will be objective, open-minded and will carry out my
adjudicative duties faithfully and impartially.

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

matter?

Answer: Answering this question may be perceived by a reasonable person as undermining my


independence or impartiality as a jurist and it may lead to frequent disqualification from cases or
matters that come before the bench. If elected, I will be objective, open-minded and will carry out my
adjudicative duties faithfully and impartially taking into consideration all relevant facts to ensure that
the best interests of the child are served.

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?

Answer: Answering this question may be perceived by a reasonable person as undermining my


independence or impartiality as a jurist and it may lead to frequent disqualification from cases or
matters that come before the bench. If elected, I will be objective, open-minded and will carry out my
adjudicative duties faithfully and impartially.

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?

Answer: Answering this question may be perceived by a reasonable person as undermining my


independence or impartiality as a jurist and it may lead to frequent disqualification from cases or
matters that come before the bench. If elected, I will be objective, open-minded and will carry out my
adjudicative duties faithfully and impartially. I would follow the law as promulgated by the United
States Supreme Court in Padilla v. Kentucky.

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?

Answer: To my knowledge and belief, I do not know anyone that is an undocumented community
member. However, as a judge, I am obligated to perform my duties without bias and prejudice towards
anyone. I am committed to creating an environment that ensures that stakeholders are treated with
respect and promotes access to justice for all.

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?

Answer: If elected, I will be objective, open-minded and will carry out my adjudicative duties faithfully
and impartially. Trauma along with all relevant factors will be considered when balancing aggravating
and mitigating factors during the sentencing phase and determining whether to depart from the
recommended plea agreement or sentencing guidelines to ensure that the individual receives the
mental health services and supervision necessary to reduce the possibility recidivism.

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?

Answer: Answering this question may be perceived by a reasonable person as undermining my


independence or impartiality and it may lead to frequent disqualification. If elected, I will be objective,
open-minded and will carry out my adjudicative duties faithfully and impartially.
18. According to EvictionLab.org, 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?

Answer: Governor Wolf can use his executive authority to impose an eviction moratorium – Judges are
obligated to enforce the moratorium. Judges possess special expertise in matters of law, the legal
system, and the administration of justice, and may properly share that expertise with governmental
bodies and executive or legislative branch officials.

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?

Answer: Answering this question may be perceived by a reasonable person as undermining my


independence or impartiality as a jurist and it may lead to frequent disqualification from cases or
matters that come before the bench. If elected, I will be objective, open-minded and will carry out my
adjudicative duties faithfully and impartially.

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?

Answer: The judiciary must ensure that all parties adhere to the rules of civil procedure while making
reasonable accommodations to pro se litigants, to ensure that the matter is heard fairly and impartially.
The right to be heard is an essential component of a fair and impartial system of justice. Substantive
rights of litigants can be protected only if procedures protecting the right to be heard are observed. I
am committed to creating an environment that ensures that stakeholders are treated with respect and
promotes access to justice for all. If elected, I will be objective, open-minded and will carry out my
adjudicative duties faithfully and impartially.

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

Answer: Answering this question may be perceived by a reasonable person as undermining my


independence or impartiality as a jurist and it may lead to frequent disqualification from cases or
matters that come before the bench.

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?

Answer: The judiciary must ensure that all parties adhere to the rules of civil procedure while making
reasonable accommodations to pro se litigants, to ensure that the matter is heard fairly and impartially.
The right to be heard is an essential component of a fair and impartial system of justice. Substantive
rights of litigants can be protected only if procedures protecting the right to be heard are observed. I
am committed to creating an environment that ensures that stakeholders are treated with respect and
promotes access to justice for all.

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?

Answer: The judiciary must ensure that all parties have an opportunity to be heard fairly and
impartially. The right to be heard is an essential component of a fair and impartial system of justice.
Substantive rights of litigants can be protected only if procedures protecting the right to be heard are
observed. I am committed to creating an environment that ensures that stakeholders are treated with
respect and promotes access to justice for all.

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?

Answer: Judges can participate in activities that are designed to inform and educate the public on how
our judicial system operates, including explaining the duties and obligations of the judge, the district
attorney, and defense counsel. I am committed to participating in educational activities that will increase
the community’s knowledge and understanding of the judicial system. More importantly, I am
committed to making reasonable accommodations to pro se litigants that ensures an opportunity to
have their matters heard fairly and impartially.

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?

Answer: Philadelphians can file a complaint with the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania, if a judge,
engages in misconduct or does not perform his duties fairly and impartially. Another procedural tool
available to the community is the judicial retention election process. This process gives community
members an opportunity to evaluate the overall performance and records of judges.

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