LGBT advocates are lauding the promotion of Common Pleas Court Judge Daniel J. Anders to the position of supervising judge of the court’s civil division. Anders is the first openly-gay male to serve as a supervising judge in Philadelphia.
Angela D. Giampolo, a local civil-rights attorney, said she was “super-thrilled” about the news. “He’s perfect for this position because he’s charismatic, personable — and yet a staunch advocate for the underdog,” Giampolo said. “And that is what the citizens of Philadelphia deserve.”
Anders’ responsibilities will greatly expand due to his promotion, which went into effect Nov. 2. He’ll oversee approximately 200 court employees, including about 30 judges.
“My primary responsibility is to lead nearly 30 trial judges to dispose of our civil cases in Philadelphia,” Anders said, in an email. “Those civil cases range from jury trials on medical malpractice claims and car accidents, to tax and zoning appeals related to homes where people live, to appeals of landlord/tenant cases. It is a tremendous responsibility to manage the large number of cases fairly and efficiently. One of my immediate priorities is to plan for conducting in-person civil jury trials in early 2021, which have been suspended since March 16, 2020.”
Previously, Anders, who is the first openly gay judge in Pennsylvania, served as a judicial team leader in the civil division, where he was responsible for the case management of about 8,000 civil jury cases. He also previously worked in the criminal division, where he presided over trials involving matters such as attempted murder and rape. Anders started out in the family-court division, hearing abuse and neglect cases, according to information he provided.
Anders, 52, said he’ll serve at the pleasure of Administrative Judge Lisette Shirdan-Harris, who appointed him. He won’t receive a salary increase. His office will remain in City Hall, but he won’t be trying cases in the foreseeable future. “I would love to return to the courtroom for jury trials,” Anders said. “Those opportunities will be infrequent so long as I am supervising judge.”
Anders said he’ll also focus efforts on reducing the heavy backlog of cases in the civil division, which receives about 40,000 lawsuits annually according to a court spokesperson.
“I’m listening to our judges and court staff as well as from our civil justice partners including the plaintiffs’ bar, defense bar, the legal aid organizations and the Philadelphia Bar Association,” Anders said. “Collectively, the civil justice partners are committed to addressing the backlog in a fair and efficient manner. This is a time to innovate and to think creatively about how we can manage cases to disposition in a way that is fair and efficient.”
Anders said he was surprised to learn of his appointment. “I was honestly surprised,” he continued. “Although I’ve been a judge for 13 years, I’ve only been in the civil division for five years. I’m honored that people believe I’m ready to lead our civil division at a relatively young age.”
Deja Alvarez, a transgender leader, praised Anders’ attributes. “Dan is not just a good guy who I’m lucky enough to know personally,” Alvarez said. “But I also consider him a friend. He’s compassionate, fair, honest and works hard to do the job — while knowing he is also a representative of our community. I’m excited for our community and for the difference Dan can continue to make.”
The Hon. A. Michael Snyder (Ret.), Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, said he was very pleased to hear of Anders’ appointment.
“I was absolutely, completely delighted when I heard of Judge Anders’ appointment,” Snyder told PGN. “He has broad experience. He has an open mind. He really is willing to consider so many different voices and thought processes. He’s eminently fair.”
Snyder said he’s known Anders for about ten years. “He’s a man I consider a friend,” Snyder added. “I find him to be both open with advice and willing to help [when necessary]. He’s extraordinarily bright. He’s the perfect person to get the job. He will do nothing but to bring embellishment and honor to the court, as he always has. He’ll do a superb job.”
Justin F. Robinette, a local civil-rights attorney, also praised Anders’ promotion. “While Philadelphia is very LGBT-friendly, my experience with the legal profession in general is that it is often not,” Robinette said. “In my experience, there is some pressure on gay men in this profession not to be out or perceived to be LGBT. And I feel the court system as well struggles with being LGBT-inclusive.”
Robinette added: “While we should not be surprised at Judge Anders’ advancement — because being gay doesn’t have any bearing on your ability to do a job, or to do a job well — it’s also true that the appointment does send a positive message to other LGBT attorneys, to LGBT litigants who use the court system, and also to the LGBT community at large.”
Prior to becoming a judge, Anders practiced law at Pepper Hamilton LLP, where he represented clients in commercial litigation. He studied law at the University of Pittsburgh’s law school and served as an editor of the school’s Law Review. He received his undergraduate degree in political science from Lehigh University.
From 2017 to 2020, Anders was the president of the International Association of LGBTQ+ Judges, a body that has nearly 500 judicial members worldwide, he said.