One-Day Law School for Journalists™ (Philadelphia) Keynote Presentation

Judge Cynthia Rufe

One-Day Law School for Journalists presented by Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts and The Philadelphia Inquirer

Keynote Presentation - Judge Cynthia M. Rufe, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

July 16, 2020

Thank you to Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, Penn Law, and the Philadelphia Inquirer for creating, organizing, and hosting the "One-Day Law School for Journalists".

I am honored to address all participants today. It is exciting to be part of the initiative to effect means to collaborate, communicate and create a working understanding of the operations of court systems and how to access and understand court decisions and rulings, both by our written word and in court proceedings.

Thank you, Deborah Gross, for your kind introduction. And congratulations and all the best in your new position. I know your expertise and presence in cases you brought to court will be missed, as you have proven to be a trusted and reliable professional. It is a pleasure to be able to continue to work with you.

Professor Rulli, I thank you for your complete introduction to the procedures in civil and criminal cases. Sharing your wealth of knowledge with the participants is valuable and practical information, in particular shining light on the critical limitations that prevent judges from speaking publicly about pending matters in cases and issues in the public arena that implicate political positions, That, in fact, is not a fine line. It is clear from all edicts, and to preserve integrity of court rulings, that we judges upon taking our oath of office, literally and figuratively must abandon most of our First Amendment rights. 

One notable example of this deprivation is that judges cannot defend themselves when attacked for their decisions, even when an attack is unfair. We cannot use our positions as a bully pulpit. We must only speak in Court when we rule, and in writing when matters are decided on the papers. Perhaps if the case is appealed the trial court can explain its rulings, but no debate or commentary can be afforded. Nor should that be. Our decisions should stand on their merits. The appellate process of review is built into our legal system. Trial judges must follow the precedent of the appellate courts. We are bound by those rulings which together comprise stare decisis.

Read the full presentation here.