by Sue Ann Rybak
Mt. Airy resident Tiffany L. Palmer, who is running for Judge of the Court in Common Pleas in the May 21 primary election, received the endorsement of the 9th Ward Democratic Committee, which includes Chestnut Hill and parts of Mt. Airy.
Palmer, 47, who is a family law and civil rights attorney, graduated from Rutgers Law School in 1998. After graduating from law school, she received a grant from the Equal Justice Work Fellowship that enabled her to found the first LGBT family law direct services program in the nation. In 2014, she received the Mary Philbrook Public Interest Law Service Award from her alma mater.
Currently, she is a partner and founding member of Jerner & Palmer, P .C., a Germantown law firm specializing in family law and estate planning.
Palmer, who is currently the Director of the Family Law Institute of the National LGBT Bar Association, said while she has had a wonderful career as an attorney, the “20-year mark” in her career comes at a time “in our democracy where people are losing faith in our systems of government, where our judiciary, in particular, faces a crisis of confidence around the country, but also here in our city, and especially in our family court.
“So I believe now is the time for me to step up for public service in our courts as a judge,” she said. “I believe I have something unique to give to improve our system of justice. We cannot forget the unique and important role judges play in our family court system. 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. With my legal background, I have an understanding of the law and a caring commitment and compassion to those coming to the court for help.”
Palmer, who is co-leader of a Girl Scout troop in Chestnut Hill, said public service has always been an important part of who she is. Both her parents were public school teachers. Her father, Bill Palmer, was a vocational school teacher, and her mother, Mary Lou Palmer, eventually became an elementary school principal.
“I was taught from an early age that each person, no matter what their background or identity, is entitled to equal dignity and the opportunity to learn, grow and prosper,” she said.
It’s just one of the reasons why Palmer and her wife, Lee Carpenter, decided to send their daughter, Ellie, to J.S. Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences in Chestnut Hill.
“Lee and I choose public school for our daughter because we believed it was the right choice for her, our family and our community,” said Palmer, who helped form the 501 (c) (3) for Friends of Jenks and is currently a board member. “We both began our careers as social justice lawyers and view public education as an important civil right. We wanted to contribute to our city by investing our resources, time and energy in working to improve education, not just for our own child, but for all children.”
Palmer said while she is proud of the legal contributions she has made in the areas of parental rights and marriage equality, now she hopes “to be able to contribute to justice in a different way, as a judge.”
“The compassion I could bring to the court is a compassion born from experiences – from my experiences representing the most vulnerable members of our society, from being an out LGBT person, from being a mother, a Girl Scout Leader and the daughter of two public school teachers.
“The law has the ability to affect real change in the lives of people – for better or worse. I have learned that I can be the best advocate for my clients, but it is the judge who will decide their fate. So we need the best judges too.”
Sue Ann Rybak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-248-8804.