Judge John Padova, Jr., is running in the May 18 primary to keep his seat on Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas.
Judge John Padova, Jr., is running in the May 18 primary to keep his seat on Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas. On recommendation by the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers’ Association, Judge Padova was appointed to the Court by Governor Wolf and approved by the State Senate at the end of 2019, and joined the Court in January 2020.
Padova lives in Center City with his wife, Lua Thi Kim, who immigrated to the United States from Vietnam in 1987 and obtained an early and elementary education degree. She is also a licensed esthetician. The eldest of six children, Padova was born in Germantown, and grew up in Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill. He attended Norwood Academy and Chestnut Hill Academy. His father John Padova, Sr., was a Federal judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and now serves on senior status. His mother was a nurse, now retired.
Following in his father’s footsteps, he attended Villanova University and Temple Law. He then went into private practice, representing individuals injured in accidents, on the job, and from medical errors, as well as in insurance, job discrimination, and wrongful termination claims. From 1996 to 2000, he served by appointment of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on the State Bar’s Disciplinary Committee, overseeing ethics complaints. He has also served as an arbitrator, and as Judge Pro Tempore for the Philadelphia Mortgage Diversion Program, which helps homeowners avoid foreclosure.
Padova is sensitive to the working class perspective, and has secured a number of labor endorsements. “I’ve worked ever since I was 12 or 13 years old, starting in restaurants in Germantown, as a dishwasher, kitchen aid, and busboy,” he said in an interview, “including the no-frills Boswell House.” His grandfather immigrated from Italy, was one of the first short order cooks at the Mayfair Diner, and later opened two diners of his own, where his father and uncles worked. Other endorsements, which can be viewed at padovaforjudge.org, include Northwest Philadelphia’s 9th Ward Democratic Committee, former Governer Ed Rendell, City Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, and a number of State legislators.
Leaving a successful private practice built over 30-plus years was a financial sacrifice, but he found the chance to serve the public as a judge compelling. “I’ve tried and handled so many cases over the years,” he said. “I've represented diverse people from all backgrounds, from the underprivileged and disabled, to children, the elderly, and all nationalities, races and genders. I really thought I could make a difference.” He added “nearly every family has had some type of legal dispute, whether it's civil, criminal, family, or work, it touches everybody and the judges elected in Philadelphia should be attuned” to their needs.
His judicial philosophy centers on respect for all parties. “As a judge,” he said, “you have to remain impartial and neutral. You have to look at arguments from both sides from an objective point of view,” and “it's my view that no matter where people come from, no matter what nationality, race, or gender, I’ll be constantly interested in people feeling they were sufficiently heard in a respectful manner. When they walk out of that courtroom, no matter what the result is, I want them to say ‘this judge listened to me’.”
Outside the courtroom, Judge Padova is a standout athlete. He played varsity hockey for Villanova and was an All American powerlifter, setting a national collegiate bench press record and winning the 1986 national powerlifting championship. In his 40s he took up Brazilian jiu-jitsu, studying at the renowned Gracie Academy, and won Pan-American and International Jiu-Jitsu gold medals. He now helps coach at the Academy.
Padova hopes to continue to bring these diverse experiences to bear at work. “I’d like,” he said, “to use all my life experiences, my athletic endeavors, coaching, and family experiences, to make a difference, serve the public and give back to the community, and I don't know any better way of doing that than as a judge in Philadelphia, the city where I was born, raised, and educated.”