Vikki Kristiansson

Member since: Monday, 16 January 2017
Last Visit: Never
First Name
Last Name
Campaign Cycle
Common Pleas
Sitting Judge
Email Address
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Ballot Position
Button #
Bar Association Rating
5th Ward, 8th Ward, 9th Ward
Progressive Groups
Guardian Civic League, Liberty City LGBT Democrats, National Organization of Women (NOW), Philly LEAD, Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)
Public Officials
Governor Ed Rendell
News Papers
Philadelphia Gay News
What has been the general nature of your practice?
I have spent 14 years working as an attorney in the field of criminal law. I have handled some of the most challenging cases related to child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking. This includes building relationships with victims, families, communities, and the many public servants involved in these important cases. My experience reaches beyond the local level and extends also to state and national work. I work for a non-profit legal organization that works to improve the criminal justice system’s response to the aforementioned crimes, as well as stalking and abuse in jails, prisons, and juvenile confinement settings.
Why do you consider yourself qualified to be judge?
I have spent my entire legal career working in and for the betterment of our criminal justice system. First, I worked as a trial lawyer prosecuting criminal matters. Now, I work on policies and initiatives designed to improve our criminal justice system and to help those operating within the system protect the voiceless and most vulnerable.

As a trial lawyer, I worked as a prosecutor at both local and state levels. I handled white-collar and violent crimes, ranging from fraud to human trafficking. I also worked on criminal law policy, both as a government attorney and for non-profit technical assistance organizations. I advised two state Attorneys General on setting policies, and I coordinated statewide programs and initiatives related to foreclosure mediation and criminal justice issues. I also counseled numerous government agencies, including the New Jersey State Police and county prosecutors’ offices throughout New Jersey, on Uniform Crime Reporting, domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, pilot programs, and police suicide awareness and prevention. My work has always been focused on ensuring that all members of the court and public servants work in their individual capacities in a manner that is respectful of the people they represent and in line with the letter of the law.

Through my current public interest legal work, I provide technical assistance and trial strategy guidance to prosecutors, civil attorneys, and allied criminal justice professionals, with a focus on sexual assault, domestic violence, abuse in confinement, child abuse, stalking, and human trafficking. I have traveled throughout the United States to conduct over 180 seminars and to lead training programs on criminal justice issues for more than 6,000 attorneys and allied criminal justice professionals, 1,300 of whom practice in Pennsylvania. In addition, I volunteer for pro bono appointments as a child advocate representing abused, neglected, abandoned, and medically needy children in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

Through these experiences, I have become intimately knowledgeable of courtroom operations and the professionals who support it. I have made it my job to understand the various aspects of a case, including the perspectives of the victims, defendants, investigators, and attorneys; I have worked alongside all of them throughout my career. I am the candidate who has been there and understands the many facets of a case, embracing the human experience and feelings of fear, anger, frustration, and confusion that come with a person’s or family’s lack of experience in our legal system. I believe a judge must proceed with a consciousness of these circumstances and work proactively to prove she understands the tremendous impact the system has on all people’s lives inside and outside of the courtroom. I am qualified for the role of judge because I not only appreciate the importance of this fact, but also believe it should live at the very core of our judicial system. I fully intend to make this the foundation upon which I build my courtroom philosophy.
What is it about our criminal justice system that inspires you?
The criminal justice system is our system of support and of accountability. Individuals rely on it for a number of reasons – victims for the opportunity to be heard and persons charged for the opportunity to seek justice. How successfully it fulfills this mission, whether in fact or in perception, impacts how everyday citizens feel about our country and the rights afforded to all people.
What about our current criminal justice system do you believe needs to be reformed?
First, the system needs bail reform. A person’s access to justice should not be premised upon his or her economic means.

Second, under no circumstances is it appropriate to hold a victim responsible for any crime perpetrated against him or her. We must work to erase cultural, racial, and gender biases that cause a shift in culpability from a perpetrator to a victim.

Third, persons who are charged with narcotics possession offenses should first be directed toward treatment, regardless of their economic means.

Fourth, the system must recognize the impact of mental health issues on a person’s behavior and work to treat rather than punish persons who have these challenges.

Finally, judges need to be trauma-informed, meaning that they should recognize that many people who appear in court have experienced traumatic events over the course of their lives. This is especially true for criminal courts, as persons with substance abuse and mental health disorders have almost universally experienced trauma at some point in their history. Trauma impacts a person’s physical health, mental health, ability to meaningfully participate in the criminal justice system, and ability to respond to treatment or other interventions. Trauma awareness minimizes certain challenges by proactively acknowledging and addressing past traumas, thereby improving the court process and results for our community.
As a judge, what would your sentencing philosophy be?
My sentencing philosophy is based on restorative justice, individualized treatment, community safety, and support for a victim's right to be heard.

Restorative justice focuses on the relationships between crime victims, persons charged, and society. It emphasizes the repair of harms for all parties involved in a case. In some circumstances, it may be offered as an alternative to a traditional criminal justice system response (examples include negotiated protocols, intervention programs, and community service). In other cases, it can be part of the more traditional criminal justice response that includes determining culpability, providing treatment, and deterring crime. The crucial factor is that justice must be individualized so that all parties are restored to the greatest extent possible and aided by the criminal justice process.
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.
Several years ago, I handled an arson case that, to this day, gives me pause. I will briefly explain the background. (The names of the parties have been changed to protect their privacy.)

A woman named Dorothy lived in a rowhome on her block for more than 40 years. Over time, she watched many of the neighborhood children grow up and move away. One day, one of those children returned to the neighborhood as an adult in her mid-20s. Her name was Linda. Linda told Dorothy that she had nowhere to turn and needed a place to stay while she tried to get her life in order. Dorothy allowed Linda to stay in a room upstairs.

It soon became clear that Linda was addicted to drugs. It also became clear that Linda had a controlling “boyfriend” who would pick up Linda in the afternoon and would not drop her off until the next morning. The boyfriend would scream and curse at Linda and push her around. One morning, he repeatedly hit and punched Linda, telling her she was in trouble for not making his money and that she better get her act together for the next night. When Dorothy came downstairs, Linda’s “boyfriend” told Dorothy to mind her own business if she knew what was good for her. After a short period of time, Dorothy asked Linda to leave her home. Linda returned the next day and set Dorothy’s house on fire. Dorothy escaped, but her home was destroyed. Linda was charged with arson and related offenses.

Linda admitted to causing the fire and entered a plea of guilty. At the time of sentencing, all parties focused on the destruction of Dorothy’s home and her subsequent homelessness, as well as treatment of Linda’s narcotics addiction and lack of a high school diploma.

All of us failed to consider the impact of Linda’s “boyfriend” on Linda’s life. In all likelihood, Linda’s boyfriend was committing human trafficking. To this day, I think about how the system failed to support Linda’s needs and failed to investigate a human trafficker.
Who are your role models and why?
My mother. As a single mother and a Philadelphia public school teacher, she raised two daughters while managing her own life struggles and challenges. My sister and I are college graduates and are now mothers who have families of our own. My mother’s resilience and strength continue to inspire me in my work and personal life.
What is your favorite book, movie, or tv show of all time and why did it speak to you so much?
“Endurance: An Epic of Polar Adventure,” by Frank Arthur Worsley. This book is about explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton’s 1914 expedition to the Antarctic. The expedition’s ship, the Endurance, became trapped in the ice and eventually sank. Shackleton’s entire crew survived, and he then led them across ice packs and the sea to an uninhabited, inhospitable island. Knowing they could not survive there for long, Shackleton and a few crew members set sail in a small boat in hopes of making it to the closest inhabited island. Ultimately, not only did Shackleton make it to the inhabited island, but he returned to rescue his entire crew, and then returned again to rescue two other groups of stranded sailors.

This story has stayed with me for several reasons. First, loyalty. Shackleton was loyal to his crew, and they to him. He risked everything for them. Second, leadership and teamwork. In the face of serious consequences, Shackleton made difficult decisions in consultation with his crew. His decisions were made stronger because he listened to those around him. Finally, staying the course. In the face of every obstacle, Shackleton didn’t quit. He had a mission and did whatever possible to complete it for the sake of his crew.
Name a song that you were obsessed with as a teenager.
“It’s a Miracle,” Barry Manilow.
What is you favorite number?
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