Area voters will head to the polls in a few weeks to choose from a long list of judges and other candidates in the municipal Primary, two of whom are members of the LGBT community.
Among the judicial hopefuls in the May 19 election are openly gay candidates Dan Anders and Dawn Segal.
Former Philadelphia prison commissioner Leon King II had been running as a judge for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, but withdrew his name last week. Dan Clifford, longtime family attorney in Norristown and chair of the Springfield Zoning Hearing Board, had plans to run for the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, but missed the endorsement at last month’s GOP Convention by 18 votes.
Gov. Rendell nominated Anders to the Court of Common Pleas in 2007 to fill a temporary vacancy, making him the first openly gay judge to be appointed to the bench in the state. Anders is now one of 25 Democratic candidates vying for one of the seven open seats on the court, which carry a 10-year term.
Anders has been an active member of the local LGBT community for the past decade, chairing former Mayor John Street’s LGBT Advisory Taskforce and serving on the boards of such local organizations as Equality Advocates Pennsylvania, the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and OutFront!
Anders has served in the Family Court Division for the past two years, but prior to his appointment focused his legal practice on commercial litigation with extensive pro-bono civil-rights work.
“It has been an honor to serve as a judge on the Court of Common Pleas and to have made a positive difference both for the LGBT community as well as the wider legal community,” Anders wrote in his Liberty City Democratic Club questionnaire. “My prior experience both as a community advocate and as a lawyer dedicated to preserving civil rights enables me to be a fair and independent trial judge.”
Segal, a trial attorney for more than two decades, is running for a judgeship with the Municipal Court of Philadelphia. Segal is one of 13 Democrats vying for one of the four open seats on the court, which have a six-year term.
After launching her legal career at a private litigation firm in 1984, Segal worked in the Major Trials Unit of the City Solicitor’s Office for several years and spent 13 years as a master trial attorney with Prudential Insurance Company until she was laid off in 2003. She now works as a trial attorney with her partner, handling civil cases that range from employment discrimination to real-estate- and insurance-related issues.
Segal, who has served as a judge pro tem for the Court of Common Pleas, wrote in her Liberty City questionnaire that she would hold her courtroom to the highest standards.
“I have spent over 20 years in a courtroom [and] know how a courtroom should be run to achieve the fairest result in the most efficient fashion while respecting all those who come before the court,” she wrote.
Ray Murphy, chair of the Liberty City Democratic Club, noted that judges often are the deciding voice on numerous LGBT issues, and thus LGBT and ally voters should educate themselves about candidates’ positions before heading to the polls next month.
“From second-parent adoption to custody rights to placing LGBT kids in safe foster homes, judges make decisions every day that affect members of our community,” Murphy said. “There is not supposed to be bias in our judicial system, but I know we’d all feel safer knowing that the judges we elect understand the concerns and needs of the LGBT community, and that’s why it’s important that voters are informed and aware of which judges will serve them best.”