A look at Philadelphia’s LGBTQ judges

Clockwise from top left: Abbe Fletman, Ann Butchart, Barbara McDermott, Chris Mallios, Daniel J. Anders, Gregory Yorgey-Girdy, Idee Fox, Tiffany Palmer

The city of Philadelphia currently has seven openly LGBTQ judges, all on the Court of Common Pleas, with an eighth joining Municipal Court in 2022.  

Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas 

Idee Fox first won election to the Court of Common Pleas in 1995 and was retained in 2005 and 2015. In 2018 she was elected President Judge, where she is responsible for implementing court rules, assigning newly elected or appointed judges to one of the divisions of the court, and supervising Election Court in order to allow all citizens to exercise their right to vote, among other duties. Fox attended the State University of New York at Stony Brook and then Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. She grew up in South Philadelphia. This month, she was interviewed by PGN Publisher Mark Segal about her life and career.

Ann Butchart was elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 2005, becoming the first openly LGBTQ person to be elected judge in Pennsylvania. Before becoming a judge, Butchart practiced civil law and had experience in corporate benefits administration. She was active in local politics as a founding president of the Kensington South Community Development Corporation and as a member of the Liberty City Democratic Club. When she won the general election, Butchart told PGN “I think the message this sends is that our community certainly has a great deal of capable, qualified and interested people who want to represent the city of Philadelphia in all areas of government. I think this particular election shows that there is no reason why the talent in our community cannot be better recognized.”  

Daniel J. Anders was appointed to the Court of Common Pleas in 2007 by Governor Ed Rendell and confirmed by the PA State Senate. In 2009 he was the first openly gay man to be elected as a judge in the state of Pennsylvania. From 2017 to 2020, Anders was the president of the International Association of LGBTQ+ Judges, a body that has nearly 500 judicial members worldwide. In 2020, he was promoted to the position of supervising judge of the court’s civil division, where he oversees approximately 200 court employees, including about 30 judges. Prior to becoming a judge, Anders worked as a litigator for Pepper Hamilton LLP for nine years. There, he donated hundreds of hours of free, LGBTQ-centric legal counsel to individuals and local organizations including the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania.

Barbara McDermott was elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 2011. Prior to her work as a judge, McDermott ran a criminal defense firm and had three decades of legal experience. After graduating from Georgetown University Law School, she worked in Harrisburg prosecuting hazardous-waste dumpers, then she moved to Philadelphia and spent six years as an assistant district attorney in the homicide unit. A native of Aliquippa, near Pittsburgh, McDermott told PGN in 2011 that what drew her to Philadelphia was the diversity of the city’s judicial branch. “Back in the ’80s it was really the only bench in the commonwealth with any diversity. We had African-American judges and women judges, and I’d been working around the state and just hadn’t seen that elsewhere.”

Abbe Fletman was appointed to the court in 2014 by Governor Tom Corbett and approved by the PA State Senate, and she won election the following year. Prior to being a judge, she practiced law in private practice and at firms including Wolf Block and Flaster Greenberg. She served as co-counsel in the case Choike v. Slippery Rock University, which involved women athletes suing the university after it announced it would cut three women’s varsity sports teams. Fletman served as co-chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Legal Rights of Lesbians and Gay Men Committee, and she also helped launch the American Bar Association’s Litigation Section’s LGBT Litigator Committee. In 2014, she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Legal Intelligencer. Before her career in law, Fletman worked as a newspaper reporter in North Carolina.

Chris Mallios was elected judge in 2015. A Philadelphia native, Mallios graduated from Temple University Law School in 1987. He has worked for the District Attorney’s office, where he became chief of the Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit; the University of Pennsylvania; and for Washington D.C.-based company Aequitas, where he traveled the country training law enforcement and criminal-justice professionals on how to properly handle sexual-violence cases. “I think being a judge is an amazing and important job,” Mallios told PGN in 2015. “I have spent most of my career in courtrooms or teaching and training people who are in courtrooms. Public service and working in criminal justice is my calling.”

Tiffany Palmer won election in 2019. Before serving as judge, Palmer was a family law and civil rights attorney who often worked on complex family law cases. Over 20 years she handled numerous custody cases and finalized more than 500 adoptions for LGBTQ families. “We cannot forget the unique and important role judges play in our family court system,” Palmer told PGN in 2019. “The majority of people in Philadelphia face custody, child support cases and domestic violence in family court without an attorney. It is up to the judge to be sure they understand the proceedings, to ask the right questions and to be sure they have a chance to be heard.

Philadelphia Municipal Court
Gregory Yorgey-Girdy won election in 2021 and will be sworn in as judge in 2022. He began his law career as an assistant city solicitor for the City of Philadelphia before joining Potter Anderson Corroon LLP, where he focused on conflict management. Yorgey-Girdy was a co-chair of Liberty City LGBT+ Democratic Club until January 2021, and he was an organizer for the Philly Queer March for Black Lives in 2020. Yorgey-Girdy wrote in PGN in 2020, “As a Judge in the Municipal Court, I will use my perspective and experience to fight with everything in my power to ensure that people in my court are treated with fairness and equity, regardless of their background, race, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, language or disabilty.”

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