WHY DON’T YOU TEACH JUDGES?
AT THE WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA FELLOWS HOLIDAY DINNER IN DECEMBER 2018 AT THE DUQUESNE CLUB IN PITTSBURGH, CURRENT STATE CHAIR JOHN
C. CONTI WAS SEATED NEXT TO JUDICIAL FELLOW JUSTICE CHRISTINE L. DONOHUE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA. CONTI SUGGESTED
THAT THE COLLEGE ORGANIZE A CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION PROGRAM AT UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH OR DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY SIMILAR TO THE
COLLEGE’S ANNUAL PROGRAM AT TEMPLE UNIVERSITY IN PHILADELPHIA. JUSTICE DONOHUE RESPONDED, “WHY DON’T YOU TEACH JUDGES?” SHE
WENT ON TO DESCRIBE A RECENTLY CREATED PROGRAM OF CONTINUING JUDICIAL EDUCATION AND THE REQUIREMENT THAT ALL TRIAL AND APPELLATE
JUDGES PARTICIPATE IN TWELVE HOURS OF ANNUAL CONTINUING JUDICIAL EDUCATION.
John jumped on the idea and enlisted the services of Fellow
John P. Gismondi because of his experience in CLE
programing; together they presented a program on medical
malpractice to sitting Pennsylvania state court judges.
A partnership was born.
Pennsylvania’s continuing judicial education program is
operated under the aegis of the Judicial Education Department
of the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania
Courts, which provides continuing education to more
than 1,000 jurists through programs, conferences and
symposia. Starting in 2017, state law has required trial
and appellate judges to participate in three hours of judicial
ethics training and nine hours of substantive judicial
education annually, according to Director Stephen M.
Feiler, Ph.D. who is a criminologist.
It has been important for Dr. Feiler’s office to partner with
other organizations. At the outset, Chief Justice Thomas
Saylor reached out to all nine law schools in Pennsylvania
to enlist their participation and all nine remain involved
to varying degrees. It was this model that prompted Justice
Donohue to suggest a partnership with the College.
Since 2018, the College has partnered with the Administrative
Office of Pennsylvania Courts to present on various
topics, including privileges in civil and criminal cases,
eminent domain and land valuation and most recently,
digital evidence in court. Dr. Feiler says “Our relationship
with the College is developing into a productive, fruitful
partnership and we could not be more pleased. This type of
collaboration allows us to offer a greater number of learning
opportunities in a broader array of legal inquiry.”
All fifty states and most provinces have a judicial education
program of some kind, although the formats vary.
The Pennsylvania program has been entirely virtual during
the pandemic. Previous programs were a combination of
in-person and virtual, allowing judges to gather together or
participate from their chambers. Dr. Feiler concludes that
many judges have found it particularly appealing when they
could gather in one or more locations in Pennsylvania, because
it added to a sense of camaraderie and invited more
questions and participation by the audience.
Dr. Feiler notes that while they are required to do twelve
hours of training, most actually participate in eighteen hours
of programing, demonstrating tremendous professionalism.
While some judges have specialized dockets, judges are the
only general practitioners left in an era in which the bar is
In May and early June of this year, College fellows organized
and presented the most recent program. Digital Evidence
in Court was presented in two, three-hour sessions using a