by Barbara Sherf
As a political newcomer, longtime Chestnut Hiller Chris Hall knew that throwing his hat into the ring with two dozen other Democratic candidates for Court of Common Pleas Judge would be a long shot, but a recent decision by the Philadelphia Bar Association to rate him as one of four “Highly Recommended” candidates has put a spring in his step.
“This system helps candidates like me earn recognition based on merit in a low-information election,” said Hall, 60, who has been in courtrooms for 34 years. “It’s the single best resource for citizens trying to decide.”
The other three highly recommended candidates are James C. Crumlish, Anthony Kyriakakis and Tiffany Palmer.
The Court of Common Pleas handles major civil and criminal trials, juvenile and domestic relations, and orphans, making up the bulk of judicial cases. Judges serve a 10-year term.
“A court appearance is a defining moment in the life of any citizen,” Hall said. “As a prosecutor and former criminal defense attorney, I can draw from my experience on both sides of the aisle to call balls and strikes, explain rulings and treat everyone with dignity and respect.”
One of Halls’ many stops on Mt. Airy Day was at Cliveden, where he met up with Shalena Broaster. He listened to her story about being in the courtroom while a judge passed down a sentence to the man who murdered her nephew. When the judge handed down the life sentence, Broaster said, the judge looked down and shuffled papers, and Broaster felt sorry for the defendant and his family.
“What really struck me about Chris is that he really listened to me, made eye contact and truly showed empathy and concern,” said Broaster, an online marketing consultant, who gave Hall a big shout out to her 5,000 Facebook followers. “When I shared my story with Chris he said, ‘that will not happen in my courtroom,’ and I believe that. That he got a highly recommended rating does not surprise me.”
According to the Philadelphia Bar Association website, candidates rated “Highly Recommended” and “Recommended” satisfied a cumulative review of criteria, including qualifications such as legal ability, experience, integrity, temperament, community involvement and judgment. Ratings for all judicial races can be found at ElectQualifiedJudges.com
Hall detailed the intensive ratings process, as did a representative from the PBA.
“The Commission’s ratings of judicial candidates are the only nonpartisan source for voters in Philadelphia,” said Rochelle M. Fedullo, Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor. “It’s a very rigorous process. Our commission interviews at least 20 people, meets with the candidate, asks questions, deliberates and then issues our recommendations. In lieu of merit selection, I consider this to be the best way to educate the public.”
While the Philadelphia Bar Association’s high-ranking helps, Hall still has to get elected. He hopes the 2,000 voters (only 1,000 are needed) who signed his nominating petition and others will remember his name, as he is listed at number 20 on the ballot.
“We developed a slogan – ‘Chris Hall, Lever 20, for a Judge with 20/20 Vision’ – and hopefully voters will remember that and also use the bar association information to select other candidates who were highly recommended,” Hall added.
A graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, Hall said there is value in the candidate forums, and his fluency in Spanish gave him an edge in listening to voters who might not otherwise be heard.
“As a candidate, it would certainly be easier to rely on merit selection, but there is a lot of value in requiring candidates to get out into their communities to listen to voters, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the process,” Hall noted.
During his service for more than a decade as an Assistant U.S.Attorney in Philadelphia, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno recognized Hall for bringing the first healthcare fraud prosecution in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania during the Clinton administration.
The prosecution, about which Hall is most proud, helped Southwest Philadelphia residents by bringing the first environmental justice prosecution in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Together with the FBI and EPA, he secured a $1 million cleanup of asbestos debris that had been dumped behind a row of homes.
Hall currently chairs the White Collar and Government Investigations Practice at the Center City law firm Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, where he has worked for more than a decade.
Hall and his wife, MaryAnn Boyer, have lived in Chestnut Hill since 1992. Boyer is a former science teacher at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and a former environmental scientist for the Environmental Protection Agency. She founded Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants with former Hill resident Anne Sudduth in 2015.
The couple has three grown children, Jim, Toni and Andy, all of whom attended local schools. Two of the three are educators. Jim teaches environmental science at Gratz Mastery Charter. Toni is a teacher at KIPP, a charter school in Chicago. Andrew is graduating from Kenyon College.
Hall and his wife held a bike ride seven years ago to help raise funds for cancer research. That effort has now grown into the Breakthrough Bike Challenge, the official bike ride of Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center. Hall co-founded that organization and serves on its board. Participants have raised more than $1 million over the last five years, with 100% of the proceeds going toward cancer research at Penn Medicine.
Hall and Boyer have been working members at Weavers Way Coop for 20 years.
For additional information, you can find Chris Hall on Facebook as well as ElectQualifiedJudges.com