Location: City Hall - Room 653
President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas
Judge Massiah-Jackson earned her Juris Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1974. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Judge Massiah-Jackson served as a law clerk to Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Robert N.C. Nix, Jr. and then as an attorney at Blank Rome Comisky and McCauley. At Blank Rome she practiced in the areas of anti-trust and securities law, as well as corporate, commercial, and civil litigation. In 1983, she was elected to the judiciary for the Court of Common Pleas and she sat in both the Civil Trial Division and Major Felony Criminal Division. President Bill Clinton nominated Judge Massiah-Jackson for the Federal Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 1997.
Massiah-Jackson began her term as President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia in 2001. In 2003, Judge Massiah-Jackson introduced a program which aimed to improve the quality of representation for poor defendants facing the death penalty. Responding to increased federal scrutiny of Philadelphia death penalty cases and to the recommendations issued by the American Bar Association, Judge Massiah-Jackson improved the fairness of death penalty sentencing by assigning an additional penalty phase lawyer to assist court-appointed defense attorneys in murder trials.
The "two counsel" program Judge Massiah-Jackson implemented gives defendants a way to conduct proper mitigation investigations for the sentencing phase of their trials. Single defense attorneys often could not perform these investigations alone, leading to ineffective representation. Before the introduction of a second attorney, the death sentences handed down in these cases were often overturned on appeal. Judge Massiah-Jackson described the program as yet another step toward reaching the court's ultimate goal of being fair and providing justice.
Shortly after being elected President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in November 2000, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania appointed Judge Massiah-Jackson as the Chair of the Governing Board of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania. As Chair, she was responsible for the governance of Philadelphia's Common Pleas, Municipal, and Traffic Courts. In 2006, at the conclusion of her five-year term, Judge C. Darnell Jones succeeded Judge Massiah-Jackson as President Judge. Judge Massiah-Jackson currently sits in the Civil Trial Division of the Court of Common Pleas.
Outside her service with the judiciary, Judge Massiah-Jackson works with a wide range of academic and community organizations. Since 1992, she has lectured at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. She has also served on the board of managers of the University of Pennsylvania, as well as the board of directors of Chestnut Hill College, the board of governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association, and the boards of the National Catholic Educational Association and Center for Literacy. Additionally, she has sat on committees for the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial of Philadelphia.