A Community-Minded Candidate for Judge

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

In case you haven’t noticed from signs sprouting in windows, there’s a primary election just around the corner. In addition to deciding whether Mayor Michael Nutter deserves a chance at a second term in office, we will be voting for candidates for City Council, row offices and judgeships. I had the chance recently to meet one of those judicial candidates, and I think you should get to know him better too.

His name is Giovanni Campbell, and he is a practicing attorney in Philadelphia seeking a seat on the Court of Common Pleas. This court is the place where crimes against persons and property are tried, which makes it essential that judges on it understand the communities they help protect.

Campbell has spent his entire life understanding and serving his community, stretching back to his high school days, when he provided physical therapy and served as a Spanish language interpreter for patients at a large urban nursing home as a volunteer. Ever since, he has given freely of his time to help people who need it, whether they are students interested in learning about the law or parents seeking the education their children deserve.

Those people include members of the LGBT community who he has represented on a pro bono basis. “I remember one occasion I represented a transgender Latino woman who needed early release from incarceration for her safety,” he said in a recent interview. “I knew I would need to act quickly on her case because of her circumstances.” His work on her behalf won her the early release she sought.

While he has demonstrated special concern for the most disadvantaged throughout his career when he began his law practice, he opened his first law offices in Philadelphia’s poorest neighborhoods in order to bring his services closer to those who needed them. He has also shown a dedication to fairness and integrity that will serve him well on the bench.

In fact, it’s that combined commitment to both the law and the community that led him to run. I think the bench will benefit from someone who has both community service experience and judicial temperament, he said.

While not gay himself, Campbell’s commitment to the city’s LGBT community rivals that of Judge Dan Anders. His campaign staff is itself a portrait in diversity, with all races, genders and orientations represented.

And on April 5, he will celebrate that diversity at a meet and greet event at Giovanni’s Room. Aware of the history behind the store and the James Baldwin novel whose name it bears, Campbell noted with a chuckle the fact that he and the bookstore share a first name when we spoke. “It’s pure coincidence,” he said.

I should note here that I think we should not be voting judges into office. Usually, when we make choices at the polls, we are looking for results – for answers to questions and decisions on contentious issues. Judges, by their very nature, are not supposed to promise us results. Their first duty is to the law and to administering it with fairness and integrity, not to pleasing us voters. In my ideal world, judges would be nominated by panels of citizens who understand what makes a good judge, confirmed by the legislature, and subject to voters’ judgement only at retention elections. But since we do elect judges to the bench, it is important that we do choose the right people when we go into the voting booth. Campbell has demonstrated his understanding of his duty to the law, to fairness, and to integrity throughout his career, and when combined with his concern for the community, he makes an ideal candidate who I believe deserves your vote.

The meet and greet with Giovanni Campbell is at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5, at Giovanni’s Room, 12th and Pine streets. Pizza and beverages will be served. For more information, visit www.giovanni4judge.com.

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