In a special Black History Month Celebration of 2024, the Honorable Judge Filer will be honored for his place in history as a California Judge sitting on the bench in Compton for 30 years. City Pride Magazine is using the upcoming 2024 Black History Month as a time to celebrate our long legacy of leaders, inventors, and outstanding men and women of days long past. City Pride Magazine will also be taking the opportunity to recognize our local heroes who are making history today and spent their lives making a difference in our community. Judge Filer is one of those heroes.
Kelvin Filer was born, raised, and educated in Compton and has spent all his adult life as a public servant in Compton. He became a lawyer and now a judge, which are careers where you can just about live anywhere in the world but he chooses to stay in Compton. Filer is a California Superior Court Judge and the first thing he’ll let you know is that he loves the great city of Compton.
His family has been proud residents of Compton since his father, Maxey Filer, moved from Arkansas in the early 1950s. He married a preacher’s daughter Blondell Burton and they moved from the south and settled to start their family in Compton. The Filer family has made a great impact on the community of Compton and is a big part of its history
Maxey and Blondell were very active in the Civil Rights movement in Compton. Maxey was President of the NAACP and Blondell was secretary. They used their home for meetings, and Kelvin got an opportunity to grow up around the movers and shakers in Compton and the pioneers of California’s political power. Compton was a center of California politics at that time. Many leaders developed some keen political skills out of that movement that was born right there in young Kelvin’s living room. Nine-year-old Kelvin was there on the scene and his life ambitions were set and at that time he knew he wanted to be a lawyer. Since then Kelvin has done what he had to do to achieve his goals. First, he became an excellent student and got excellent grades (attending Davis Middle School and Compton High), and that allowed him to attend some of the best colleges in the country. He attended UC Santa Cruz and then attended law school at UC Berkley. He took the bar exam and passed it the very first time.
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 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 the 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 and Superior Court Judges Association and is a life member of the NAACP, California Association of Black Lawyers, and the John M. Langston Bar Association. Additionally, he has been a member of the Board of Directors for the Compton Chamber of Commerce since 1984. In 2007, Judge Filer was the recipient of the UC Santa Cruz “Distinguished Social Services Alumni Award” in recognition of his achievements in community, education, and service.
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.
A member of First United Methodist Church, in Compton, Kelvin has two beautiful daughters, Brynne and Kree. He 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.