The Honorable Kelvin Dean Filer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kelvin D. Filer, was “born, raised, and educated in Compton, California!”
Judge Filer insists on emphasizing that he is from Compton because, historically, we tend to hear only negative things about the city. His message is not one of “look at me” – rather to tell the students and young people in Compton that if I made it, so can you!
After graduating from Compton High School in 1973, he went to the University of California at Santa Cruz where he majored in politics, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1977 while graduating with “college honors” (the top 30 students at Stevenson College). While at UCSC he was a member of the Black Student Alliance for four years and was a member of the Basketball Club for three years. He subsequently received his Juris Doctorate degree from UC Berkeley (Boalt Hall) in 1980.
In 1980, Judge Filer started practicing law as a Deputy State Public Defender for two years. It was during this period that he argued and won a landmark case before the California Supreme Court in 1980. The case was People v. Taylor (1982) 31 Cal.3d 488 – a unanimous decision holding that criminal defendants have a right to wear civilian clothing - “the garb of innocence” during their trials. In 1982, he opened his own private law practice in his hometown of Compton, California, and maintained a general criminal/civil practice with an emphasis on criminal defense work.
In July 1993, he was selected to the judicial bench as a commissioner for the Compton Municipal Court and later served as a Superior Court Commissioner after unification of the courts in 2000.
On August 8, 2002 Governor Gray Davis appointed him as a judge of the Superior Court in Los Angeles. He, of course, asked that his assignment remain in the Compton Courthouse. He currently presides over a long cause felony trial court.
Kelvin has been very active in legal and community activities. He was elected to the board of trustees for the Compton Unified School District in 1981 and served for three terms.
Judge Filer serves as a member of the California Judges Association, a founding Member of the Association of African American California Judicial officers; life member of the NAACP, life member of both the California Association of Black Lawyers and the John M. Langston Bar Association. He served several years as a member of the Board of Directors for the Compton Chamber of Commerce beginning in 1984. In 2007, Judge Filer was the recipient of the UC Santa Cruz “Distinguished Social Services Alumni Award” in recognition for his achievements in community, education and service. Among the many other honors and recognitions he has received, Judge Filer cherishes that in 2016 he was recognized as an “Outstanding Father” by the Long Beach Branch of the NAACP and in 2017, he was the recipient of the “Unsung Hero: Community Judiciary Award” by the City of Compton. In November, 2017, Judge Filer was inducted into the prestigious Hall of Fame of the John M. Langston Bar Association.
He works very closely with the youth of the community by participating in the Courthouse Interchange program as a presenter/lecturer at Compton High School. He also serves as a Judge for the Teen Court Program at Jordan High School and Compton High School. In 2010, Judge Filer was honored as an outstanding alumnus and inducted into the “Hall of Fame” for Compton High School.
Judge Filer’s career has always reflected his desire to do the right thing and his view that everyone deserves justice and equality. This ethos was reflected in a high-profile ruling that Judge Filer issued in September 2011 in the case of Obie Anthony. Filer found that Anthony had been wrongfully convicted of murder in 1995, and after holding an evidentiary hearing Judge Filer reversed the conviction! In Filer’s words, “an injustice had been done by this man’s conviction” and he ordered Anthony released from custody. Judge Filer subsequently made a judicial determination that Mr. Anthony was “factually innocent” of all charges. Since Judge Filer’s ruling, the State of California has implemented legislation that increases the penalties for California prosecutors who hide exculpatory material from the defense.
A member of First United Methodist Church, in Compton, Kelvin has two beautiful daughters – Brynne and Kree. Kelvin beams with pride about both of his daughters! Brynne is an aspiring singer/song writer. Kree is an attorney with her own private law office. Kelvin is a die-hard Lakers fan who enjoys music, movies, and playing basketball. He regularly writes poetry and also holds a patent for an invention – “Filers Flavored Filters” – which are specially flavored coffee filters that will produce gourmet/flavored coffee from brewing regular ground coffee. Judge Filer published his first book of poetry in 2010. The title is “Race Ipsa Loquitur – A Poetic Diary of My Journey from Compton to the Los Angeles Superior Court Bench.”