Chester County Magisterial District Court Race . . . Analisa Sondergaard to Challenge Incumbent Judge Jeremy Blackburn

Last month, in anticipation of the Primary Election on May 17, I produced a schedule to review the candidates for Tredyffrin Township Supervisor, T/E School Board, Chester County Magisterial District Judge and the Special Election.  Each of the candidates has been asked to submit either a resume or a bio and I have linked Community Matters to this information.

The Primary is a week from tomorrow and today’s topic is the Chester County Magisterial District Judge race for District Court 15-4-01.  District Court 15-4-01 has jurisdiction over precinct W-1, W-2, W-5, M-2, M-3, M-4 and M-7.  Incumbent Judge Jeremy Blackburn will face challenger Analisa Sondergaard for the magisterial district judge position.

Sondergaard is endorsed by the Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee.

Last month I sent an email to Judge Blackburn asking for his resume or biographical information and did not receive a response.  However, I sent another request this morning and if I receive the information, I will post it.

The District Court 15-4-01 includes my precinct and I thought it would be interesting to have background information on the position and responsibilities of a magisterial district judge.  From the Chester County government website, www.chesco.org below is a district justice overview.

The magisterial district judges are part of the unified judicial system of the Pennsylvania court system and are governed by the Pennsylvania Rules of Court as promulgated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. On a local level the nineteen district courts within Chester County are under the supervision and direction of President Judge Paula Francisco Ott. Each magisterial district judge is elected to a six-year term of office and serves within their magisterial district. Magisterial District Judges hold hearings on the following:

  • Summary cases (both traffic and non-traffic related matters).
  • Civil and landlord/tenant cases not exceeding $8,000.
  • Criminal cases. and
  • Preliminary hearings on misdemeanor and felony cases.

Additional duties include:

  • Financial reporting including receipt and disbursement of funds to the county, state, local municipalities and school districts; in order to provide accurate case management and public awareness.
  • Presiding over hearings relative to Protection From Abuse (PFA) matters, issuing search warrants, setting bail, conducting marriages, holding preliminary arraignments both during office hours as well as during scheduled night duty sessions.

In addition, the magisterial district judges are assigned to a rotating schedule of Night Duty. The Pennsylvania Rules of Court require that a magisterial district judge be available at all times after established business hours of the Court of Common Pleas. Therefore, a schedule exists which indicates the on duty magisterial district judge for nights, weekends and holidays.

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  1. I don’t know her but I can’t help but believe that Ms. Sondergaard will be better qualified than Judge Blackburn whose court I recently visited. (It’s no surprise that he hasn’t sent you his paper-thin resume.) I was appalled at his patronizing manner and the egotistical manner in which he conducted the people’s business. Frankly, I was embarrassed for Tredyffrin. We deserve better.

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  2. Another reason Blackburn may not be wanting to share his resume is that he is not even a lawyer. Hard to believe you can become a judge without a law degree or passing a bar exam.

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  3. They call it “Black-Robe Disease” and he’s got it, big time.

    Looks like his opponent is an attorney and might actually understand something about the law.

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  4. not every district justice is a lawyer. Judge Blackburn has been a judge for 18 years with a marvelous record.

    To say he is patronizing or egotistical is unfair and one person’s opinion. Probably Analisa’s mothers.

    All the education in the world does not compare to practical experience, imo.

    My vote goes to Blackburn!!!!!

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    Common Sense Reply:

    Incorrect. The rules of evidence, civil procedure, criminal procedure and state constitutional review, legal ethics/professional conduct, legal analyses, etc. are not intuitiive “learn on the job” constructs. It’s insane to think that one is capable of stepping into the judicial arena without the basic necessary conditions of attending an accredited ABA law school and passing the state bar. These are not ivory tower obsolete institutions, rather, they teach outgoing lawyers how to analyze and interpret the law correctly in the entire scheme of the common law. Judge Blackburn is an amateur, plain and simple. He is not bar certified. Judge Blackburn has shown time and time again a deference to state’s attorneys and law enforcement agents for the simple fact that they know more about the law than he does. He is a follower, not a leader in the legal community. He is unqualified for the position and I will work day and night to see that a qualified attorney fills the position.

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    give it a rest Reply:

    Wow — another lawyer heard from. Small Claims court isn’t even supposed to require a lawyer — but as the bar gets raised and people “litigate” these small matters, the mentality of someone doing a job for 18 years being unqualified is scary to me. In what cases have you seen Judge Blackburn defer to state lawyers? It is up to the parties to make their case. I’m personally comfortable with someone deciding something using not just law, but judgment. How many times are the wrong decisions made because the lawyers twist the information. Find a qualified attorney, but don’t make them qualified just because they ARE an attorney.

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    Common Sense Reply:

    First, I’m not a lawyer, just a concerned citizen who takes time to actually learn about things (i.e. legal education/certification). Judge Blackburn’s court is not merely a small claims court, he also hears criminal matters. In a criminal proceding, the state brings charges against an individual facilitated by an ADA. These are not small matters for those attempting to prove innocence, especially when they have a judge who consistently defers to law enforcement agents when determining questions of fact. Defering to law enforcement agents, as facilitated by the state’s charges, makes it almost impossible to make a case if you are on the other side. Pleading to lesser charges becomes the only reasonable course of action, regardless of whether they are appropriate (the risks of actually attempting to make a legal argument are too high).

    While it may be okay with you (which I really don’t understand other than that you’re clearly speaking from a position of ignorance, OR from a position of friendship), this is not okay with me. In matters where personal liberty/property are at stake, the law is the only substance that will suffice. The rammifications of loose justice are too great, even at the most local levels.

    Furthermore, I made the statement that a law degree and bar certification are NECESSARY conditions, not sufficient conditions. Necessary for qualification, but not sufficient for integrity.

    Common Sense Reply:

    Furthemore, it’s scary to me that you think that doing a job for a long time is sufficient for qualification. I shouldn’t have to provide examples to show how ridiculous this position is.

    From the West Reply:

    The rules of evidence, civil procedure, criminal procedure and state constitutional review, legal ethics/professional conduct, legal analyses, etc. are not intuitiive “learn on the job” constructs

    **************

    They are also not the basis of municipal district court. If they were a law degree would be a requirement for this position, but it is not.

    Perhaps Analisa made a mistake and meant to run for Court of Common Please or higher level court where this is required.

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    Common Sense Reply:

    I was not arguing that they are required, I was arguing that I would rather have a magistrate with those qualifications than not, regardless. I don’t understand why that’s so difficult to grasp? Do most employers only ask for the minimal qualifications when interviewing perspective employees? The most practical reason that I would prefer a lawyer is that lawyer’s are taught to critically evaluate positions, to leave their bias at the door, and to evaluate the evidence in an impartial manner. The partiality comes when they represent a side, but prior to determining whether to represent a side, they must evaluate the counterpositions. You’re free to do whatever you want, but I’m voting for a qualified attorney.

    And furthermore, THEY ABSOLUTELY ARE THE BASIS OF MUNICIPAL COURT. You actually think the rules of civ pro and evidence stop at the municipal level? Or that municipal court is not governed by consistent rules? It’s still governed by the PA State Supreme Court as a component of the greater state court system, all of which are beholden to the same laws.

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