Philly elects a Latina millennial as judge
Mia Roberts Perez, one of the candidates elected yesterday to Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas, will be bringing more diversity to the bench where there are currently only a few Latino judges in a field of about 100.
The 34-year-old has been practicing law for a decade during which time which she has served as public defender, trial attorney and adjunct professor at Temple School of Law, and also successfully ran her own law firm, Perez Law LLC, which specializes in criminal defense and family law. Now, she will become one of the youngest judges in the history of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
The court had a total of 12 seats available for 13 candidates. Roberts Perez was one of 12 Democrats elected to the court, while Vincent Furlong, the only Republican on the ballot, was the only candidate not elected.
With 9.08 percent of the votes, Roberts Perez positioned herself in the second place. The following list, based on numbers from the Pennsylvania Department of State elections return website, shows the percentage of votes obtained by each one of the elected candidates.
- Ken Powell (9.39)
- Mia Roberts Perez (9.08)
- Kai Scott (8.94)
- Tracy B Roman (8.81)
- Abbe Fletman (8.73)
- Lyris Younge (8.31)
- Stephanie M. Sawyer (7.78)
- Michael Fanning (7.47)
- Chris Mallios (7.45)
- Daine Grey Jr. (7.42)
- Rainy Papademetriou (7.33)
- Scott Diclaudio (7.02)
Common Pleas Judges are given specific appointments by an administrative judge. Perez hopes to work in alternative disposition programs — a series of programs that target current criminal offenders.
“These are ways we can ensure society is protected by focusing on treatment and rehabilitation of ex-offenders, which I’m really passionate about,” Perez said. “We drastically need to expand on those programs and make sure we have judges to work with those programs as well.”
Perez expressed her excitement at being one of the youngest judges elected to the court. She also hopes her age and position will have a positive effect on the criminal offenders who enter into the courts, most of whom are close to her in age.
“To see someone succeed who’s not from an affluent or political background, there’s a hope in that,” she said.
During her campaign, Perez Roberts obtained a rating of “recommended” from the Philadelphia Bar Association Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention.
“She’s young but she is obviously qualified,” said Albert S. Dandridge, Chancellor of the organization.
“As far as being Latina, it’s always a good thing for our local courts to represent the people that are going to be coming in front of them,” he added. “When there is someone that they can identify with and knows what’s going on in a particular community, that gives more confidence to the people that come before a court seeking justice.”
Will Gonzalez, executive director of CEIBA and former president of the Hispanic Bar Association, congratulated Roberts Perez for her election.
“It’s important for the justice system to reflect the diversity of the community, and Mia will now be part of that system,” Gonzalez said. “Her election speaks volumes about how Latinos are slowly but surely getting into the judiciary.”
Roberts Perez will be joining other Latino judges of the First Judicial District like Teresa Sarmina, Angeles Roca, Nina Wright Padilla, and Giovanni Campbell, of the Court of Common Pleas, and Nazario Jimenez, of the Municipal Court.
Meanwhile, three Democrats were elected yesterday to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Among them, Superior Court Judges David Wecht and Christine Donohue and Philadelphia Judge Kevin Dougherty.
“None of them are Latino,” Gonzalez said. “We need to start helping Latinos ascend to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and hopefully we can see something like that happening in the next five years.”