Philadelphia appoints first-ever Latina city solicitor

Cortes will succeed Marcel Pratt in overseeing the city's 330-employee law department. She currently chairs its litigation group.

Diana Cortes

Diana Cortes will succeed Marcel Pratt in overseeing the city’s law department. (City of Philadelphia)

Mayor Jim Kenney announced on Tuesday the departure of City Solicitor Marcel Pratt, and the appointment of his successor, Diana Cortes.

Pratt, who plans to serve as solicitor until Dec. 10, has accepted an offer to become managing partner of Ballard Spahr LLP’s Philly office.

Cortes, who currently chairs the litigation group at the law department, will serve as acting city solicitor in Pratt’s absence until her appointment is voted on by City Council.

Pratt became the youngest person ever appointed and confirmed to Philadelphia’s top legal post in March 2018 at age 33.

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The city solicitor, responsible for heading the law department, acts as Philadelphia’s chief legal officer, overseeing the legal representation of the agencies and officials who make up the city government.

Kenney thanked Marcel for his service, citing legal accomplishments like the city’s successful defense of the beverage tax in Pennsylvania’s high court in 2018 and its current defense of the 2020 election process.

Along with Cortes, Pratt led the city’s recent effort to sue the commonwealth for harming Black and brown communities by preempting its efforts to pass stricter gun control laws.

“I have equal confidence in Diana’s ability to advise us as the City’s top lawyer,” Kenney said in a press release, adding that Cortes’ leadership of the litigation practice made her “the obvious choice to succeed Marcel.”

Cortes’ appointment overseeing the 330-employee operation is a historic one: She will be the first Latina city solicitor in Philadelphia’s history.

Pratt had kind words for his successor, who he called his closest adviser and “one of the best lawyers with whom I’ve ever worked.”

“The hardest part is leaving my family of City colleagues,” Pratt said of pivoting to the private sector. “But I find comfort in knowing that the City will have a brilliant lawyer and leader in Diana Cortes.”

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Cortes in a statement said she was “truly honored and humbled” by Kenney’s decision, and that “City Council will consider my appointment at such a momentous and critical time in our city and nation.”

Cortes, outside of her litigation group leadership role, is personally litigating cases such as the initial civil prosecution under Philadelphia’s Lost and Stolen Gun Ordinance.

A graduate of Cornell University and Villanova University School of Law, Cortes previously worked as an attorney at Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin P.C. representing municipalities and school districts.

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