Northwest Philadelphia’s Judge Mark Moore seeks new term

by Pete Mazzaccaro
Posted 4/29/21

After spending more than a decade as an Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia and another eight years as a policy holder’s attorney for Allstate Insurance Company, Northwest Philadelphia …

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Northwest Philadelphia’s Judge Mark Moore seeks new term

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After spending more than a decade as an Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia and another eight years as a policy holder’s attorney for Allstate Insurance Company, Northwest Philadelphia native Mark Moore was appointed to the Court of Common Pleas in June of 2020 by Gov. Tom Wolf. He’s hoping to win another term on the court, where he serves in the criminal division.

Moore grew up in West Oak Lane and graduated from Central High. He went from Central to Temple before transferring to Hampton University, where he got a degree in marketing. He earned a law degree from Villanova and a Master of Law (LLM) in trial advocacy from Temple University.

Moore spent 13 years in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office where, he said, he worked all sorts of major and minor crimes.

“I probably tried over 100 jury trials while I was there and thousands of preliminary hearings and bench motions,” he said.

While he was an ADA he and his wife Esther lived in an apartment over what was then Reese’s Pharmacy, now Elfant Wissahickon at 8039 Germantown Ave. The couple – who will celebrate their 26th wedding anniversary in May – now live in Roxborough and have two daughters, Nyla, a senior at Hampton University, and Ariel, a junior at American University.

Moore’s other connection to Northwest Philadelphia is a 20-year membership with New Covenant Church in Mt. Airy where he and his wife teach middle school bible class and are involved in the church’s food ministry, Fish and Five Loaves. Moore drives a truck to pick up food from a distribution center and bring it back to the church to be distributed locally.

More said the most memorable case he prosecuted as an ADA was one that began under dire, shocking circumstances but turned out well in the end. It involved a hit-and-run in which the victim, a teenaged girl, was wedged in the wheel well of the car that struck her and watched the ground zip past her, below, as the driver fled the scene while she was still trapped beneath the car.

“It was heart-wrenching,” Moore recalled noting the girl was able to testify in court. “She was rushed to the hospital with multiple injuries and was in critical condition but, thank the Lord, she survived and was able to testify.”

After leaving the DA’s office, Moore went to work as a client’s attorney at Allstate.

“If in fact you're an Allstate client, your dog bites someone or someone slips and falls on your property, … or they sue you, I was your attorney and represented you in civil court,” he said.

Then last year, Moore was nominated by the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee to fill a vacancy in the municipal court. He was appointed by Wolf last year and must now first win a spot in the Democratic primary this may before going on to the general election in November.

Moore’s name was put forward by Roxborough’s 21st Ward, where he has been a committeeman. He’s regarded highly, however, beyond the ward. Among his many notable backers, Moore has earned the endorsement of The Philadelphia Democratic Committee, the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization of Women and City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart. In addition, he received a highly recommended designation from the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Crucial to Moore’s case for another term is the fact that he’s one of only a few Black male judges in Philadelphia criminal court. It’s an important role, Moore said, as many Black defendants who face Moore’s bench are not only there for a trial. They can interact with Moore for up to two years and longer as they go through the parole process.

“To me the bench, the judiciary, needs to look like Philadelphia,” Moore said. “Not just Black and brown judges. We need white judges, Asian judges. We need gay judges…. You know, some of those individuals who come to court have to know and be confident that the judge, that the factfinder, understands what they're going through.

“When defendants come before me, I see the look on their face when they see me behind the bench. They're surprised to see a Black male judge. But not only just when they see me, but in my interaction with them. I just talk to them, just one person to another. I can't change the facts and I can't change what the law says. But, you know, if nothing else, if I could try to make court less daunting and intimidating, you know, be fair and truthful about what's going on.”

Moore said that during his long affiliation with the Philadelphia criminal court system, he has seen improvements. He cited the elimination of mandatory minimums by the state as crucial to giving him the opportunity to apply sentences that fit the circumstances for every defendant in his courtroom. He also said he supported reforms on cash bail.

“You shouldn't be sitting in prison because you can't pay,” Moore said. “If you have low-level, nonviolent crimes, to me, you should be, between the time you were arrested and the time of trial, out working, with your family and going to school.”

Outside of the courtroom, Moore has a literary side. He spent time earlier in life as a reporter for a Black newspaper in Virginia, The New Journal and Guide. Years ago, he began a crime thriller, “The People’s Business,” that he just finished and published in 2018.

“It's one of those things where I kept picking up, putting it down, pick it up, put it back down, and then it got to a point in our last couple of years, I'm like ‘Listen. You need to finish or complete this. You need to finish what you started. For my daughters to see that,’” he said. “And I really started getting more passionate, passionate about getting it out. So I did. Once this campaign is over, I'll get back to promoting it, but, you know, that's one I can leave off my bucket list.”

Moore’s literary leanings have moved him to assign a book to his parolees, “As a Man Thinketh,” a 1903 book by the British philosopher and poet James Allen. It represents part of his judicial philosophy that judges are not on the bench simply to put people in prison but to, wherever possible, change them for the better.

“If you can get people to want to start doing better, to build themselves up instead of to help tear them down, I think you can accomplish a lot.” he said. “I’m just one judge, but if I can effect change, and one person has a ripple effect, that person changes two people and those two people change others.”

Judge Mark Moore is on the ballot in the Democratic Primary on May 18. For more information, see mooreforjudge.com

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