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When Harry T. Edwards joined the federal bench in Washington, D.C., in 1980, the court was fractious and riven by political factions. So much so that, when he first joined the court, a liberal judge approached him to ask if he could count on Edwards’ support. Today things are different, as the court has become more of a model of independent jurisprudence.

Why the turnaround? Edwards, former Chief Judge and current Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, credits collegiality, which he described in a February lecture at Penn Law as an “atmosphere of civility and respect” free from political considerations.

Edwards, who published a paper on The Effects of Collegiality on Judicial Decision Making in the May 2003 issue of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, deflected criticism that collegiality leads to acquiescence and reluctance to challenge colleagues’ opinions.

From his experience, quite the opposite occurs. “On the DC Circuit … not only do judges accept feedback from colleagues on draft opinions; they welcome it,” said Edwards, who presented ILE’s Distinguished Jurist Lecture. “They might even be disappointed if none were forthcoming.”

Visiting with Edwards before his lecture are left to right: Michael L. Wachter, Co-Director of the Institute of Law and Economics; Michael A. Fitts, Dean of Penn Law School; and Edward B. Rock, Co-Director of the Institute of Law and Economics.
In fact, Edwards believes collegiality fosters better - and more impartial - judicial decisions. It enables judges to focus on positive law, precedent, case record and the parties’ arguments rather than on ideology, which tends to promote partisan decisions, particularly when judges feel beholden to the politicians who appoint them. “The deliberative process is richer and fuller because of collegiality, so the decisions are the product of more rigorous, challenging and thorough discussion,” he said.

Edwards mentioned one other benefit: Collegiality has reduced the need for dissents in the D.C. court because all viewpoints are aired and considered before decisions are reached.



Since his state is one of the epicenters of company incorporations, Vice Chancellor Leo E. Strine Jr. L’88 regularly makes and shapes corporate case law. He put that expertise to use last March when he presided over a mock court hearing on the Classified Board/Poison Pill debate at Penn Law.

Jay B. Kasner, a partner at Skadden Arps Slate Meager & Flom in New York, represented the plaintiff in the hypothetical case and Theodore N. Mirvis represented the defendant. Mirvis is a partner at Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz in New York.

During the arguments, students got an up-close look at the issues involved in corporate takeovers. A panel discussion moderated by ILE Co-Director Michael L. Wachter followed.

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