Judgeship 'next step' for out attorney
by Jen Colletta
Mar 24, 2011 | 3263 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CHRIS MALLIOS (LEFT) AND PARTNER BILL MCNETT
CHRIS MALLIOS (LEFT) AND PARTNER BILL MCNETT
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Openly gay attorney Christopher Mallios has worn many hats throughout his professional career — prosecutor, defense attorney, LGBT liaison — and is now looking to fuse those experiences for a new title on his repertoire: Common Pleas Judge.

Mallios, a Philadelphia native, will be one of 45 locals vying for one of 10 open vacancies on the Court of Common Pleas in the May 17 primary.

Mallios grew up in Juniata and Bustleton in the Northeast, attending Philadelphia public schools and later putting himself through Penn State University and earning his law degree from Temple University in 1987.

“I’m a talker and a communicator and I like to argue with people,” he said. “I got a job in my first year of law school working for a judge in criminal cases and just fell in love with trials. I got to watch really good, really smart lawyers go into court and fight for victims and fight to protect our city and keep our streets safe. I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

Mallios, who lives in Center City with his partner of 16 years, Bill McNett, worked as an assistant district attorney from 1989-92, prosecuting mostly rape and domestic-violence cases. He then switched gears and spent several years as a criminal defense attorney and was certified to represent defendants in capital cases, working on five death-penalty cases before moving on to become a law clerk for the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania and state Supreme Court.

In 1998, he returned to the district attorney’s office, where he said his true passion lies.

“I have spent most of my career working on rape, child-abuse and domestic-violence cases. I love that dynamic of putting a really aggressive, smart, articulate person on the side of someone who’s been victimized in a really brutal and personal way,” he said.

In 2002, he was named chief of the district attorney’s Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit, where he prosecuted such cases and also supervised 18 prosecutors. He also served as an advisor to the police department’s Special Victims Unit and Internal Affairs Division.

Mallios came out during his period away from the district attorney’s office and, upon his return, had a frank discussion with then-D.A. Lynn Abraham about his orientation and the opportunities it afforded both the office and the public.

“Before she offered me the job, she said, ‘Chris, I remember when you were here before and I understand you’re out and open now and, if you come back, I want you to be the first person I can point to as an openly LGBT prosecutor in this office.’ She made it clear I wasn’t being hired because I’m gay but because I’m a good prosecutor, but she told me she wanted me to help make the office a more gay-friendly place.”

Abraham appointed Mallios as the office’s LGBT liaison, and he went on to sit on the office’s Diversity Recruitment Committee. Mallios attended Lavender Law’s annual job fairs, one of only three prosecutors’ offices — in addition to New York and San Francisco — to consistently attend such events and, by the time he left the office two years ago, the district attorney employed nine openly LGBT prosecutors.

Mallios, the former chair of the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia, also represented the district attorney’s office on the LGBT Police Liaison Committee and served as the office’s hate-crimes coordinator, where he worked to train members of the police department and the city’s Human Relations Commission on handling hate-crimes complaints.

From 2002-07, the state had a hate-crimes law that was LGBT-inclusive, but sexual orientation and gender identity were dropped from the law on a technicality.

“I did training before and after those court decisions and let people know that these are still hate crimes,” he said. “Even though we couldn’t charge perpetrators with a hate crime, I worked to show people that we still need to treat them as hate crimes because of the impact on the victims and the community.”

Mallios also trained law-enforcement personnel on LGBT-sensitivity issues regarding intimate-partner violence.

He left the district attorney’s office in 2009 to become an attorney advisor at AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women, which provides information and training to law enforcement, medical personnel, victims’ advocates and others on the proper handling of sexual assault, stalking and domestic-violence cases.

“A lot of people think that if you don’t report a crime right afterward, then you’re not telling the truth,” he said. “A majority of people don’t ever report and of those who do, it’s only a very small number that report right away. But we have police officers and prosecutors making decisions about how to handle cases on bad information. So we take research about reporting and common victim behaviors and try to explain it to people in ways that make sense and will help them handle cases based on facts and not myths.”

Misinformation about intimate-partner violence, especially incidents between same-sex couples, has also extended to the judicial branch, Mallios said, which he would seek to remedy if elected.

“A judge can have a really incredible impact on the cases they hear, and also on the people who come before them — victims, defendants and the families of both,” he said.

Mallios estimated he’s tried thousands of cases in his career, while he said other judicial candidates have scant trial experience. His previous positions, however, prohibited him from political activity, which he said prevented him from building inside relationships that could fuel the backing of the local Democratic Party.

But in the past few years, he noted, voters elected out Common Pleas Judges Ann Butchart, Dan Anders and Dawn Segal, with only Anders having the party’s backing.

“The LGBT community is really a sleeping giant in this city. We know that our folks vote in disproportionately high numbers because our civil rights really depend on the way we’re treated in the court system — and that depends on having the right people in that system,” he said. “There’s a real difference between electing someone who’s gay-friendly and someone who’s actually gay. We’ve seen time and time again people who say they support our issues and then when push comes to shove and it looks like that could be politically difficult, that support vanishes. That’s not me. And the best way to make a difference in government — whether in the legislative, executive or judicial branches — is to have more openly LGBT people there.”

In last week’s ballot-position selection, Mallios drew number eight, a good position that he said is inspiring him “to run twice as hard. My whole career has been in public service, and this is the next step for me.”

For more information, visit www.mallios4judge.com.

Jen Colletta can be reached at jen@epgn.com.

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