Alumni News

Kelley Hodge, L’96, was elected interim district attorney of Philadelphia on July 20, 2017. Four days later, she was sworn in. Six months later, in January 2018, her term ended.

It was a short amount of time to fit in a good deal of work.

Hodge came to Richmond Law from her native Pennsylvania in 1993, not intending to pursue a career in public service. A turning point came in the form of Richmond Law’s Youth Advocacy Clinic, where she discovered a passion for criminal and juvenile justice.

“That probably was the most pivotal experience that I’ve had that put me on this trajectory for where I am,” Hodge says.

Post-graduation, she found a position at the Richmond Public Defender’s office, where she spent six years. From the way the office engaged in complex cases to the way she and her colleagues interacted, the experience was a framework for her approach as a lawyer, Hodge says.

Hodge moved to Philadelphia in 2004 to work in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office. She started where all attorneys in that office do: the Municipal Court Unit, which sees 70,000 cases a year. She later worked for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency before landing back at the University of Virginia, where she worked on Title IX issues in the wake of the Rolling Stone controversy.

“What I brought to the table that made this transition a bit more natural than maybe it would seem on paper is that I had done public defender work in Virginia, [and] I had prosecuted,” Hodge says. “What you need to be an effective Title IX coordinator is … the ability to be balanced.” 

By 2017, Hodge had shifted to private practice at Elliott Greenleaf when then-district attorney Seth Williams was forced to resign. Philadelphia held a citywide election for an interim replacement, and Hodge threw her hat in the ring. She was elected from a pool of 14 candidates, becoming the first African-American woman to hold the position in Philadelphia.

Hodge’s busy case load reflected the issues facing cities and communities across the country, including the opioid epidemic, gun access, hate crimes, violence, community engagement, and police-involved shootings.

“I’m very proud of the work that we’re doing,” Hodge said before leaving office. “When people are victimized by crime, we in this office advocate for them.” Her only question? “How many of those [issues] can I check off before I leave here in January?”