The world changes quickly — and judges play a crucial role in ensuring that the law keeps up. With that in mind, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School has established a vigorous partnership with the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) Judicial Education Department, through which the Law School’s world-class faculty shares their latest research and expertise with judges, thereby empowering them to make more informed and just decisions in courtrooms across the Commonwealth.
The Pennsylvania CJE Requirement
In 2016, Pennsylvania instituted a rule requiring all Commonwealth judges to complete 12 hours of Continuing Judicial Education (CJE) credits each year. Though the AOPC Judicial Education Department had actively coordinated educational programming for judges since the Department’s inception in 2004, the 2016 order created a much greater need. Per the mandate, at least 4 of the mandatory 12 yearly hours must be earned through AOPC Judicial Education Department programming.
To fill this need, Director of Judicial Education Stephen Feiler and then-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Thomas G. Saylor decided to enlist the vast amount of legal expertise already housed within the nine law schools spread across Pennsylvania. Since then, the idea has materialized into a multi-pronged partnership, wherein law schools have committed to supporting their faculty in collaborating with AOPC’s Judicial Education Department to provide quality CJE programming to judges on a diverse range of topics related to law and the legal profession.
“All nine law schools enthusiastically agreed to collaborate with us in developing these programs, and Penn has been a tremendous partner,” said Feiler. “The Law School’s leadership has generously allowed faculty to devote time to this public service, they’ve opened their facilities, and they’ve dedicated support staff and critical infrastructure to the effort. It’s been a rich and fruitful addition to our education program. I think of it like a network of networks. Through these partnerships, we extend our network not only to each of the nine law schools, but also to their larger university communities. These networks include law faculty, yes, but also scholars in other fields who are pursuing interdisciplinary study that bears on our justice system.”
A Cross-Disciplinary Perspective
With over a third of Penn Carey Law’s faculty holding joint appointments at other schools across the University, the Law School places a high value on meaningfully integrating the study of law with the study of other disciplines. This cross-disciplinary focus is highly useful to judges and essential to working toward a more fair administration of justice.
Since the mandate took effect in January 2017, the Law School has hosted programming on a wide variety of topics, drawing on the vast breadth of faculty expertise. In April 2020, as the world adjusted to virtual pandemic life, the Law School hosted a highly attended CJE course on positive psychology, mindfulness, and wellness in the legal profession, co-led by Associate Dean and Executive Director of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice John Hollway C’92, MAPP’18 and Executive Director of Graduate Programs Elise Luce Kraemer L’93.
Moreover, in April 2022, Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy Anita Allen, Lecturer in Law Lauren Steinfeld C’89, and John H. Chestnut Professor of Law, Communication, and Computer & Information Science and Founding Director of the Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition (CTIC) Christopher Yoo led a session on the latest developments in privacy law.
“It has been wonderful to collaborate with AOPC,” said Associate Dean of Professional Engagement and Strategic Initiatives and Legal Education Programs Cheryl Hardy L’94. “Our cross-disciplinary law faculty and University colleagues are always excited to engage with our Commonwealth judges and to be of assistance in any way we can as they grapple with the myriad of issues and challenges they face everyday in service to the citizens of our great Commonwealth.”
A Culture of Continuous Learning
Even before Pennsylvania’s mandate, judges across the Commonwealth actively participated in continuing education courses, voluntarily and for a variety of reasons. For example, not only do CJE courses offer valuable learning opportunities, but they also present a somewhat rare opportunity for judges to socialize with their peers — which is especially important given the isolating nature of the profession.
Moreover, with the pandemic giving rise to more virtual learning opportunities, a greater variety of educational programming has become more accessible. Accessibility is a particular concern for judges in rural areas of Pennsylvania, who otherwise must travel several hours to take advantage of programming held in larger cities. By continuing to coordinate CJE programs available via in-person and remote learning to judges across Pennsylvania, law schools are providing a valuable contribution to bettering the service of justice throughout the Commonwealth.
“Universities sit on a 3-legged stool: teaching, service, and research. Our collaboration speaks to all three, and its benefits reach well beyond the university halls, ultimately to the benefit of everyone who comes into court,” Feiler said. “The contributions by law schools and their universities to our judicial education program represents meaningful public service with important implications. You are helping judges administer better justice — and that’s huge.”