Criminal cases assigned to Philadelphia judge reassigned after misconduct claims

Judge Genece Brinkley is known for sentencing Meek Mill to prison for breaking probation in a nine-year-old drug and weapons case.

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All pending criminal cases given to a Black Philadelphia judge who is the subject of misconduct allegations have been reassigned, and she has been shifted to civil court.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Judge Genece Brinkley, 66, and judicial hierarchy have been at odds for months. Part of the issue stems from concerns about Brinkley’s attendance and caseload management.

“We have long raised concerns about Judge Brinkley,” said Keisha Hudson, chief of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, The Inquirer reported. “Concerns in terms of judicial temperament and cases on an individual basis.”

Philadelphia Judge Genece Brinkley (above), whose pending criminal cases have been reassigned, sentenced rapper Meek Mill to two to four years in prison in 2017 for breaking his probation in a nine-year-old drug and weapons case. (Photo: Screenshot/ Podcast Network)

Lawyers and judges who have examined scores of Brinkley’s cases since the reassignment found a history of her appearing to impose improper penalties, allowing sentences to continue past their maximum dates or neglecting to promptly act on cases remanded to her by higher courts.

Brinkley petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court earlier this month in an attempt to have the decision to transfer her cases overturned, claiming the decision “raises unwarranted suspicions about [her] integrity and performance.” Gary Green, an attorney representing Brinkley, said her most recent action represents his client’s “confidence in Pennsylvania’s highest court.”

Brinkley, who was elected to the bench in 1993, is known for giving harsh sentences.

She sentenced Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill to two to four years in prison in 2017 for breaking his probation in a nine-year-old drug and weapons case, which sparked significant outrage from various public officials and celebrities. The rapper was released following inquiries into the legitimacy of his original arrest.

Lucretia Clemons, the supervising judge of criminal court, and another supervising judge, Lisette Shirdan-Harris — both Black women — were the targets of a lawsuit in July by Brinkley alleging gender and racial discrimination.

Brinkley described her long-standing animosity with Clemons to differences in judicial ideologies in her petition to the state Supreme Court, claiming she requested to be transferred from common pleas to civil court to avoid issues last year when Clemons became supervising judge, but her request was denied.

Clemons convened a status hearing in November in Brinkley’s case involving an appeal from a defendant named Daryl Williams.

Williams was found guilty of first-degree murder in 1989. He claimed in his most recent petition that he had uncovered new information challenging the reliability of a crucial trial witness. Brinkley rejected Williams’ appeal, but the Superior Court reversed her decision. The court instructed Brinkley to conduct an evidentiary hearing for Williams — but she never did.

“Although I can’t point to precise dates, I have several occasions that counsel and myself showed up fully prepared to move forward,” Assistant District Attorney Paul George said, The Inquirer reported, “only to have the case given [a different] date without really any opportunity to speak to the court.”

Following Brinkley’s transfer, Hudson claimed that her office and prosecutors had started evaluating about 120 “grossly excessive” sentences the judge handed down over the previous 20 years.

Her office dismissed more than half of the 101 cases in two days, and another 10 to 15 might follow in the coming weeks. 

Judge Mia Perez, who presided over the proceedings, frequently saw old cases with lengthy probation sentences that she promptly moved to terminate. She was allegedly perplexed by some of the issues that came before her.

In one, Brinkley had given Jeremy Speedling three years of probation for a simple assault and theft from 2019. In another case, she gave Eric Torres a maximum eight-year jail term for breaking the terms of his probation by receiving a new conviction, for the 2013 shooting of a police officer. But that conviction, the basis for the jail term, was overturned.

Brinkley characterized the move to reassign her cases as unreasonable, unprecedented, unlawful and devoid of a legal foundation. She defended her court performance and claimed that the unnecessary decision to allocate her caseload had caused undue harm to criminal defendants and the victims of crimes.

“The last place that such shenanigans can be allowed is in our courts where integrity must be the hallmark,” Brinkley wrote in her petition, according to The Inquirer.

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