The Honorable Tiffany Palmer, a highly experienced LGBTQ+ family law specialist and now a Family Court Judge in Philadelphia, first interacted with the National LGBT Bar when she began attending Lavender Law® early in her legal career as a way to connect with other lawyers committed to LGBTQ+ civil rights. When the Lavender Law® Conference and Career Fair came to Philadelphia in 2002, Palmer served on the planning committee. Not only has she spoken at the conference multiple times, attending as early as 2001, she also served as the Director of the Family Law Institute, a joint venture of the National LGBT Bar Association and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, from 2017-2019. When she came into the position, it was “during a time when the organization [was] redefining its mission in a post-marriage equality landscape;” one of her most important accomplishments during her tenure was working with Bar staff on the creation of a nationwide directory map, which allows the public to locate Family Law Institute attorneys from state-to-state.
“The National LGBT Bar has been an invaluable resource for me throughout my career,” she states. In fact, when she first came to our Lavender Law® Conference in Washington, D.C. in 2001, Palmer and her law partner Benjamin Jerner attended a session titled, “How to Start a Law Firm.” According to Palmer, they both left that conference with a plan and in 2003, formed their own firm, Jerner & Palmer, P.C., now named Jerner Law Group, P.C. after her election to the bench.
When asked about her career arc, including the work she was the proudest of, Palmer said, “during my 20-year career as a lawyer, I am very proud of my family law litigation in areas where the law was unclear and my litigation resulted in setting a new precedent. The Baby S case I litigated at the trial and appellate level in 2014-2015 is one example: that case held, for the first time, that surrogacy agreements are enforceable contracts in Pennsylvania. I am also very proud of the adoption and custody cases I handled over the years that secured a person’s relationship with a child they love and care for.”
On top of setting important LGBTQ+ precedent for future generations, Palmer is no stranger to exceptionality: she has been awarded about ten awards for her outstanding legal work, one of which is the National LGBT Bar’s esteemed “Leading Family Law Practitioner Award,” awarded explicitly to leaders in family law who have significantly improved the lives of LGBTQ+ families, parents or children through a demonstrated commitment to providing legal services of a high quality to the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to her impressive career, she has served her community tirelessly as a volunteer: as a Girl Scout Troop Leader, sitting on multiple boards of directors, and more.
As of January 2020, Judge Tiffany Palmer is now a state trial court judge assigned to the Family Court Division, having been elected to a 10-year term in the November 2019 General Election with the highest number of votes of any Court of Common Pleas candidate. She is one of two openly LGBTQ+ judges assigned to Philadelphia’s Family Court, and one of six in the First Judicial District, and she will be joining the International Association of LGBTQ+ Judges.
When asked if becoming a family law judge was always the plan, Palmer stated, “It developed over time. After 20 years as a lawyer, I felt I was ready for this new challenge and I wanted to use my background and experience to serve the public as a judge. I believe I have a lot to contribute to the administration of justice in Philadelphia. I am very excited to be assigned to the Family Court Division since family law has been my background area and I understand the issues facing the people coming to this court for help.” Over her tenure as a family lawyer, Palmer has finalized over 500 adoptions for LGBTQ+ families. On the topic of diversity in the field, Palmer noted that, “I feel it is critically important that the judiciary reflect the demographics of the populations that come before the courts,” as quoted in her “Person of the Year” profile in the Philadelphia Gay News. Palmer looks forward to public service and, in her words, is “excited to make a positive contribution to equal justice for all the people who come before our courts.” Palmer continues to prove that the LGBTQ+ legal field has set a high community standard, and we at the National LGBT Bar cannot wait to see what the future holds for her.