Candidates for Philadelphia District Attorney Face Off at Law School
April 23, 2009 — Five candidates vying to become Philadelphia's next district attorney discussed issues facing the city during a forum at Earle Mack School of Law on April 23.
Democrats Brian Grady, Daniel McElhatton, Michael Turner and Seth Williams and Republican Michael Untermeyer discussed an array of issues facing the next D.A. at the forum, hosted by the Criminal Law Society and moderated by Senior Associate Dean Daniel M. Filler.
The candidates agreed on several issues, including the need to step up enforcement of drug laws, to curb illegal gun use and to give assistant district attorneys greater latitude in prosecuting cases.
Turner said he would expand use of existing rehabilitation programs to address underlying causes of crime, while Williams said he would support educational and vocational activities for non-violent offenders. Untermeyer said other cities have made headway in reducing crime through creative use of non-profit organizations. McElhatton said the D.A. has little control over social programming, while Grady said the city lacks resources to fund new programs.
All five candidates previously worked as assistant D.A.s, but each stressed his own background as representing a unique qualification for the job.
Grady, who now represents defendants in private practice, said he has devoted his entire career to criminal law. McElhatton, also now in private practice, said he developed leadership skills by serving as a former member of the Philadelphia City Council and as a trustee of the Community College of Philadelphia. Turner, who is president of the Center City Crime Victim Services Board, said his experience helping to found both a law firm and a bank give him necessary skills to perform as D.A. Williams, who is also in private practice, served as inspector general of the city after spending 10 years as an assistant D.A. and running unsuccessfully against D.A. Lynn Abraham in 2005. Untermeyer said his experiences as a judge pro tem in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, a real estate developer and 11 years as a deputy attorney general gave him a unique mix of qualifications to become D.A.
Democratic candidate Daniel McCaffery was invited to participate in the forum, but he did not attend.
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