Betsy Wahl

Member since: Saturday, 29 December 2018
Last Visit: Never
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What has been the general nature of your practice?
Juvenile Court Hearing Officer
Why do you consider yourself qualified to be judge?
With over 30 years of experience in Philadelphia’s courtrooms, including my trial experience at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and the past eighteen years in a judicial capacity as a Hearing Officer in Juvenile Court, I consider myself highly qualified to be a judge.
My experience as a Hearing Officer- an invaluable and relevant experience for a potential judgeship- is strong:

--I am well respected by all stakeholders in the juvenile system. -I have a track record for moving large numbers of cases (often more than 200 per week) forward in an efficient manner, while also taking the time and effort needed to make the right decisions. -My courtroom always starts on time, with parties seldom kept waiting long to be heard. -I am always meticulously prepared on every one of hundreds of cases each week. -I preside over all the videoconferences for our juveniles in placement. -I presided over our Graduated Response Court, designed to turn juveniles around without resorting to long-term placement. -I am always available and approachable. -I work extremely hard everyday, with boundless energy. -I am in my courtroom two hours early everyday to prepare. -I have visited nearly all of our juvenile placements and programs (on weekends and evenings), realizing that a decision to place a juvenile is not to be taken lightly, and that when making such a decision, I should know as much about the potential placement as possible, to ensure that the juvenile’s needs will be met. -I participated in the Graduated Response Task Force Committee for the JDAI (Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiatives). -I participate in our Evening Reporting Center task force, ensuring that this alternative to detention thrives.
I consider it an honor to be entrusted to make the right decisions- and I work tirelessly to do so. I am running for judge to enable me to do more, and make a greater impact. I would certainly bring the qualities I use as a Hearing Officer to a judgeship. I have the energy and passion to do more, and would welcome the opportunity.
What is it about our criminal justice system that inspires you?
I am inspired every day by the ability of our justice system to turn lives around for the better. We need to view the system as one of rehabilitation and supervision, rather than one of punishment. When we do that, everyone wins.
What about our current criminal justice system do you believe needs to be reformed?
Our cash bail system is antiquated and needs reform. It disproportionately incarcerates people of color and the poor. This leads to lost jobs, homes, and families, at great expense to the city. In addition, we need to reconsider the tendency toward very long probation and parole supervision. When the system micromanages people for many years, we systematically prevent people from finding work, getting loans, traveling, associating with family or friends who have a record, and much more.
As a judge, what would your sentencing philosophy be?
My sentencing philosophy is to treat, rehabilitate and supervise an individual with the goal of having the individual leave the criminal justice system with the tools needed to be successful, while protecting public safety.
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night thinking about a case and wishing you had handled something differently? If so, please describe one situation.
Yes. I recall a specific case in which I ordered a juvenile sent to placement, after many attempts to resolve issues in the community. I was literally awake for hours during that night, struggling with that decision. That particular juvenile had a variety of mental health and substance abuse issues. My nighttime thoughts brought me to a solution that avoided that placement decision. I came to work early the next day, and changed the decision I had made.
Who are your role models and why?
My role models are the juveniles who appear before me every day. Many are able to succeed against great odds. It's easy for those of us with resources and family support to flourish. I have tremendous respect for those who were not so blessed, and triumph nevertheless.
What is your favorite book, movie, or tv show of all time and why did it speak to you so much?
The Wire: It so accurately portrayed the struggles of urban life through politics, crime and education. So many of the youth I see in our Philadelphia courts could have been the youth of Baltimore in that show.
Name a song that you were obsessed with as a teenager.
Bruce Springsteen's Thunder Road
What is you favorite number?
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