Fissures in the foundation can signal critical structural issues. That fact is as true for institutions as it is for real property. If the fundamentals of choosing and disciplining the individuals who serve as pillars of an institution are shaky, the institution will be vulnerable to seismic events.
Looking at Pennsylvania's judiciary, there is currently much to commend. But how can citizens have full faith in the courts if they continue to produce headlines of judicial misconduct and untoward behavior? Every new allegation suggests that something is not as structurally sound as it needs to be.
Read more from The Legal Intelligencer.
Just over one year ago, we came together as former governors from across the political spectrum to call for the adoption of merit selection of statewide judges and justices to the appellate courts of Pennsylvania: Supreme, Superior, and Commonwealth courts.
A recent report on the judicial scandals that have plagued our Supreme Court, coupled with runaway spending in some recent judicial races, compel us to renew that call today.
Spending in the 2015 judicial elections topped $16 million. Spending to date in the most recent primary elections alone has hit more than $4.75 million. We can only imagine what will be spent on general election campaigning in the months leading up to November.
Read the full opinion editorial in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts approved the newest slate of members at its annual board meeting recently in Harrisburg.
Click here for the full list.
As the only nonpartisan, nonprofit dedicated exclusively to supporting Pennsylvania’s judicial system, Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts thanks Attorney General Josh Shapiro for his inspiring recent support of problem solving courts.
The intersection of humanity, sociology and the practice of meting out justice is often a messy one, with many nonviolent offenders pushed into a system based on punishment, not practicality. According to the most recent data, the most common types of problem-solving courts were drug courts (44 percent), followed by mental health courts.
Read more in The Legal Intelligencer (subscription required).
Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts has approved the newest slate of members at its annual Board Meeting recently in Harrisburg. The new members’ terms will begin immediately.
“PMC is delighted to have such a geographically diverse, committed Board,” said Maida R. Milone, PMC President and CEO. “As PMC moves forward with renewed focus on civic education and engagement, equal access to justice, and judicial modernization and reform affecting every citizen in this Commonwealth, every Board Member’s voice and unique experience will be critical.”
The new Board Members are:
Sarah Bouchard, Partner, Morgan Lewis & Bockius
Ms. Bouchard litigates complex employment, whistleblower, noncompetition, and trade secret matters across the United States for clients in many sectors, including financial services, technology, healthcare, and retail. Ms. Bouchard is also co-leader of the Morgan Lewis & Bockius whistleblower group, where she handles sensitive litigation and litigation avoidance related to regulatory issues arising under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Dodd-Frank Act, False Claims Act, and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
David L. Hackett, Cozen O’Connor
Mr. Hackett focuses his practice on representing and counseling employers concerning the full spectrum of labor and employment-related issues. Mr. Hackett has represented employers before federal and state courts, arbitration hearings and administrative agencies.
In addition to providing daily counsel to employers, Mr. Hackett drafts personnel policies, severance agreements, affirmative action policies, employment agreements, covenants not to compete and trade secret agreements. Mr. Hackett also assists clients when seeking to interact with government entities and elected officials on the local, state or federal level.
Ronald L. Hicks, Jr., Partner, Meyer, Unkovic, & Scott, LLP
Mr. Hicks is a business and oil and gas rights trial lawyer who handles emergency, complex and appellate litigation and other business matters for a variety of clients, including (LGBT) business owners.
For the past 29 years, Mr. Hicks has handled a variety of business and civil disputes, including claims ranging from misappropriation of trade secrets and intellectual property; breach of restrictive covenants and unfair competition; to real estate and oil and gas title disputes; among other areas.
Sophia Lee, Partner, Blank Rome, LLP
Ms. Lee concentrates her litigation practice in the energy industry, handling commercial, environmental, products liability, and toxic tort matters. Ms. Lee has experience managing a national docket of over 500 toxic tort matters, including asbestos, benzene, silica, and NORM, while monitoring case development, litigation, and scientific trends; managing government investigations and inquiries; and developing litigation and information management policies and best practices, including e-discovery protocols.
Alka Patel, Deputy Director, Risk and Regulatory Services Innovation Center, Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University
At Carnegie Mellon, Ms. Patel is responsible for creating, implementing and executing strategic and operational matters relating to Center including, research projects, PwC client development, student outreach, and coordination of executive education; responsible for managing $11 million budget; liaise with faculty researchers from project inception to project approval by Governance Committee; manage internal research project lifecycle from idea inception to project scope development to managing Statement of Work though University Tech Transfer Office and Office of Sponsored Programs; and relationship manager and coordinator of all interactions with corporate sponsor (PwC).
Joshua W. B. Richards, Partner, Saul Ewing, LLP
Mr. Richards focuses his practice on commercial and appellate litigation with a particular emphasis on matters involving higher education. Mr. Richards regularly conducts on-site training sessions for higher education clients regarding compliance with civil rights laws and the Clery Act, and also advises them on policy matters.
In addition to his work representing clients in a variety of commercial disputes, Mr. Richards has also litigated a number of appellate matters, including cases before the Second, Third, Fourth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals, the United States Supreme Court, and Pennsylvania’s appellate courts.
Timothy Ryan, Member, Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC
Mr. Ryan focuses his practice primarily on the litigation of intellectual property and business tort disputes. He has represented a wide variety of clients in matters involving patents, trademarks, trade dress, copyrights, trade secrets, unfair competition claims, licenses and franchises.
Mr. Ryan also has a broad range of experience in commercial, business and regulatory litigation, involving matters such as contracts, RICO, securities fraud and toxic exposure issues. Mr. Ryan is the immediate past Chief Executive Officer of Eckert Seamans, having served on both the firm’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors.
Michael T. Scott, Partner & Chief Legal Officer, Reed Smith, LLP
Mr. Scott is a senior trial and appellate lawyer in the Life Sciences Group with Reed Smith LLP, and has tried dozens of cases before juries in state and federal trial courts and has also argued many cases in state and federal appellate courts. Mr. Scott’s prior experience also includes serving as national counsel for a food manufacturer, lead counsel for a pharmaceutical company in more than 50 E.D.P.A. cases alleging birth defects, Deputy National Counsel and Trial Counsel for a pharmaceutical company.
Daniel H. Wheeler, President, Pea Vine Properties
Currently operating a small private investment venture specializing in real estate acquisition and management, both individually and with partners, Mr. Wheeler previously spent time in government service in various roles during the Administration of Governor Edward G. Rendell. Mr. Wheeler has also practiced at the Philadelphia firms of Blank Rome, LLP, Dilworth Paxson, LLP, and the Office of the Public Defender, Chester County.
Mr. Wheeler has been involved in several high-profile cases, including what was then the largest ever insurance company liquidation, litigation that exposed Major League Baseball to unprecedented antitrust liability, and the lawsuit to prevent the U.S. Department of Defense from closing the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.
Christina Gallagher was recognized for her proposal to modernize Pennsylvania’s court system through a program to better acquaint journalists and the judicial system they cover.
Christina Gallagher, a recent graduate of Penn State Law, was honored yesterday by Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts as the winner of the organization’s inaugural writing contest at a reception at the Comcast Center.
The contest challenged law school participants to “examine one aspect of Pennsylvania’s judicial system and propose a novel approach to modernizing and/or reforming it.”
The former Philadelphia journalist approached the challenge by emphasizing her own time as a reporter, which included stints with the Philadelphia Daily News, Allentown Morning Call, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, as well as covering the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case for the Associated Press.
“To inform citizens about the work of Pennsylvania courts, the media and [the] courts need to redefine their relationship,” she wrote. “Specifically, both organizations need to understand how each other operates.”
Gallagher’s recommendations included improving legal journalism by helping those covering courts understand “the basic function and operation of Pennsylvania’s courts,” specifically through courses to give journalists both tangible knowledge of the system and relationships with the legal community. PMC is planning to implement that recommendation through its programming.
In addition, Gallagher suggested a system be developed to disseminate information about cases, similar to one used by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) for Pennsylvania’s courts, as a “tool for the public and journalists to better understand the complexities of a case.”
“As technology continues to advance, there is a greater opportunity for courts and the media to develop a better relationship,” she said. “My hope is that both entities learn to better understand and appreciate one another, as they both play important roles in society.”
“We are delighted to highlight Ms. Gallagher’s uniquely engaging work; her recognition is well-deserved,” added PMC President & CEO Maida R. Milone. “Her recommendations provide a practical path for organizations like PMC, journalists, law schools, and the judiciary to come together and fundamentally redefine how we perceive each other and how the public perceives our interrelated work.”
"We couldn't be prouder of Christina's contribution to making Pennsylvania's courts more accessible to the citizens of the commonwealth," said Penn State Law Interim Dean James W. Houck. "It's great to see that she is finding early success in combining her experience as a journalist with the legal education she received at Penn State Law."
The contest was open to 2, 3, and 4L students in the Greater Philadelphia Area, as well as law schools at Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University.
What you'll find
PMC press releases, statements, and news coverage of our work, in addition to the latest news on Pennsylvania's courts, judicial elections, ethics, discipline and more.
Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to ensuring that all Pennsylvanians can come to our courts with confidence that they will be heard by qualified, fair, and impartial judges
1500 John F. Kennedy Blvd., 2 Penn Center, Suite 1140, Philadelphia, PA 19102