One of the media’s biggest shortcomings is its lack of follow-up on critical issues. The recent controversy surrounding judges’ lenient sentences for hardened criminals, which has led to the executions of Philadelphia police officers, is the latest example.
We’ve heard how judges should have imposed tougher sentences on these convicts, many of whom had long criminal histories. The public gets outraged for a few days, but unfortunately, the story quickly disappears with no focus on how to fix the problem.
If done to play the "blame game" and score political points, exposing mistakes of the past is shameful. But if the point is to learn from history, and to understand how we can avoid making the same mistakes twice, then we benefit.
It’s time to be proactive, but that’s not happening. After the rash of violent assaults on citizens and police brought about by the lenient decisions of judges, we should have been outraged at Governor Rendell’s newest judicial nominations to the Philadelphia courts. Instead, the silence has been deafening, and two of Rendell’s three nominations were just confirmed by the state senate.
We don’t have a crystal ball to see what kind of decisions these judges would hand down, but red flags are everywhere.
Angeles Roca, confirmed to the Court of Common Pleas, has stated that she will be a voice of the "disenfranchised." I’m not real swift, but that’s either for people who’ve had a fast food restaurant taken away from them, or it’s codespeak for having a preconceived bias in favor of defendants – and against The Establishment, aka the criminal justice system. But it’s precisely this mentality that always forgets the truly disenfranchised – the victims –whose life, liberty and safety are routinely squashed by city predators. These types of judges make excuses for criminals by rendering decisions rooted in multiculturalism, diversity, disenfranchisement, and any other politically correct buzzword— except justice.
And then we have a Joyce Eubanks, a member of the ACLU, NAACP, NOW and the National Congress of Black Women. In a letter to Gov. Rendell from the National Organization for Women, Eubank’s candidacy was endorsed because, "diversity within the judiciary is a very important factor in the choice of a judicial appointment. Highly qualified women and persons of color bring a critically important perspective to the judiciary." Apparently, it hasn’t dawned on Eubanks and her supporters that the law is supposed to be color-blind.
Another nominee, Thomas Nocella, has yet to be confirmed. He touts his experience as an attorney for more than 20 of Philadelphia’s black ward leaders and the city’s Democratic County Executive Committee. Given that the Democratic Party has made registering convicted felons a priority in this election, and that Nocella represented "black" ward leaders, as opposed to just ward leaders, it’s not a stretch to imagine where his decisions would fall.
But most alarming is the fact that the voters have rejected all of these judges, numerous times. Nothing like an end-run around democracy.
Here’s their stellar track record:
Angeles Roca: In May 2007, she came in eighth place in the Democratic primary.
Thomas Nocella: In that same Democratic primary, he came in eleventh. He has run for Common Pleas three times, and is still batting zero. Nocella ran for both Municipal and Common Pleas courts at the same time.
Joyce Eubanks: She must be given credit for one thing – she doesn’t seem to care that the people don’t won’t her on the bench. She ran for both Common Pleas and Municipal courts – at the same time – in 2005 and lost both races. Not to give up, she did the same thing in 2007, but this time, as the ultimate political hack, she ran on both the Democratic and Republican tickets. She received less than 600 votes as a Democrat running for Common Pleas, coming in eighteenth place, and also lost on the Republican side. She failed to win for Municipal Court, too.
And to think that the Republican state Senate would do the right thing and reject these judges, as the voters repeatedly did. Par for the course, they chose to continue their cozy relationship with Governor Rendell and his "business as usual" approach. But equally disturbing is that no one wanted to go on record and express their reservations about these nominees – before or after they were confirmed. Not respected judicial organizations, not the FOP, not politicians, and not even certain law enforcement agencies.
If you’re a criminal, you’ve got to like being in Pennsylvania.
Chris Freind can be reached at [email protected]