His real-life experience got him elected.
Hanif Johnson describes himself as an “inner city native” of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a city where a third of residents live below the federal poverty line.
Though Johnson, 27, says he’s seen “both the good and bad” of Harrisburg, he’s chosen to focus on the good. The track and field coach just became the youngest district judge in the state.
Johnson won the seat for the Dauphin County Magisterial District in December, and will soon hear court cases in the capital, which has a majority black population.
Johnson is familiar with the law, not because he has a law degree (he doesn’t), but because he’s been on the other side of it. He went to jail twice as a teenager and again in college. He was charged in connection to hazing allegations while president of his fraternity at Penn State University–charges that were later dropped.
He hopes to use those experiences to help him rule fairly on the bench.
Above, a photo of Johnson from his personal site, hj4mdj.com
“It’s crazy because I know how it feels sitting across from that judge and that jury when you’re innocent,” he told HuffPost Black Voices.
Johnson said he ran for a seat to make a difference in his community after seeing everything that happened during the 2016 election.
“When you sit back, and you see Donald Trump become president, and you hear about all of these things we are being affected by, it seems like everything happens through the court system,” he told HuffPost. “This is me getting up and doing something.”
After he was elected, however, people in the Harrisburg community and all around the country took to social media to express their support.
Johnson hopes his win can inspire people in the community to take action and be the change they want to see.
“A lot of people came out the house and voted just because I was running,” he said. “If you want to do something and make a change, then just go out and do it.”