Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has promised a new approach to criminal justice, but the role he sees for his newly appointed second-in-command appears to be a mostly traditional one.
On Thursday, Krasner announced his selection of former Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Carolyn Engel Temin as interim first assistant. Temin, who was first elected judge in 1983, is a well-known figure in the Philadelphia legal scene, and her appointment was regarded by several attorneys to be a smart choice.
As first assistant, Temin, 83, will fill the first assistant’s traditional role of helping the staff with day-to-day legal questions, and guiding the office if and when Krasner is not immediately available.
The role, she said, is “to take the burden off the district attorney so he can pay attention to the larger issues, and to deal with the everyday questions that have to come up and be approved by someone at my level.”
During his campaign, Krasner floated the idea of doing away with the first assistant position and having instead a cabinet-style former of leadership. However, the first assistant position is mandated by statute. Talking to reporters Thursday, Krasner said he might have organized his leadership differently if the position was not statutorily required.
Temin’s role as first assistant follows the traditional path of a first assistant, but there are some differences, mainly in that Temin will not be focusing on administrative issues. In previous administrations, first assistants often also focused on these duties; however, administrative issues are now expected to be handled by others in the office, including Krasner’s newly appointed chief of staff Arun Prabhakaran.
“The judge is here, among other things, for her tremendous capacity in matters that are legal, that are related to trial, and that are related to procedure,” Krasner said. “She has a pretty amazing institutional memory and insight into how things have been done in the past and can be done in the future.”
Along with her experience, Krasner also said he chose her for her work ethic.
“She’s smarter than me. She works harder than me, and she’s more likable than me,” Krasner said.
Krasner said he had been aware of Temin while a criminal defense lawyer. Beginning her career as the first staff attorney to be hired at the Defender Association of Philadelphia and later becoming the chief criminal calendar judge, she has had a long and notable career. Krasner also noted that he appeared before Temin in a few cases he handled, though he never tried a case in her court.
Temin also said she had been familiar with Krasner before he began his campaign for office, and was “good friends” with Krasner’s wife, Philadelphia Judge Lisa Rau.
According to Temin, she reached out to Krasner in August about possibly helping his administration after a friend of hers, who had previously served as her law clerk, told her about Krasner’s campaign. After his win in November, she became a member of his administration’s transition team.
Although Temin previously worked as a homicide prosecutor in the District Attorney’s Office, she said she does not view what she is doing as coming back to the office.
“I don’t consider this coming back. What this office is going to be is different than what it was,” she said. “This is a beginning.”