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Judiciary Symposium

Fair and Imparial Judiciary logo

Thought leaders converge to discuss the meaning and impact of a fair and impartial judiciary

Supreme Court Justic Kennedy at the Judiciary SymposiumAt a time when the branches of government are making daily headlines, how do we educate the public about a fair and impartial judiciary and its vital role in our democracy? The Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Education, in partnership with the Annenberg Public Policy Center, brought hundreds of lawyers, scholars, judges and thought leaders to the Penn Law School on October 26, 2019 to address vital questions in a series of panels, including a day-closing keynote session with Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Anthony Kennedy.

Read APPC’s Blog Post on the Symposium

Penn President Amy Gutmann set the tone for the day in her welcoming remarks by saying, “Nothing in my mind is more fundamental to the future of American democracy than civics education and the rule of law, the independence of the courts, and a free and impartial judiciary.”

David Levi, former Dean of Duke Law discussed the meaning of the term “fair and impartial judiciary” followed by a panel presentation in which judges and lawyers shared their experiences of how a “fair and impartial judiciary” plays out in federal and state courts. The morning sessions concluded with Professor Charles Geyh offering insight on the challenges to judicial independence.

Symposium attendees then participated in a working lunch, which included a conversation between legal thought leaders Kathleen Sullivan and Paul Clement, moderated by the Honorable Marjorie O. Rendell. During the discussion, Clement stated, “Without a fair, impartial, independent judiciary, we lawyers don’t have a job. There’d be no difference between a lobbyist and a lawyer.”

In the afternoon, Judge Scirica and Professor Burbank took attendees inside the judicial decision-making process, and Penn Law Dean Theodore Ruger and journalist Linda Greenhouse moved the discussion to the Supreme Court and the question of whether the highest court is somehow different. Next, Jeffrey Rosen, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center, interviewed Judge Emmet G. Sullivan about how difficult cases are resolved.  The final panel of the day provided a dynamic interchange on how to make the Constitution more interesting for young people and how we might convey the important concepts discussed today to the average citizen.

The Fair and Impartial Judiciary Symposium concluded with remarks by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy offering his view of the very nature of judicial independence. Kennedy said,  “Appreciate how rare and precious is the way that, in America, the bench, the bar and the academy work together to make sure the legal system works. This is the structure that undergirds judicial independence.”

For more perspectives on fair and impartial judiciary listen to The Rendell Center’s Podcasts Judges on Judging.

Stream Videos from the Judicial Symposium

Segment 1

Opening remarks – Dean Theodore Ruger, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Dr. Amy Gutmann, President, University of Pennsylvania, Honorable Marjorie O. Rendell

What Does Fair and Impartial Judiciary Mean and Why Is It Important? Dean David Levi – former Dean Duke University School of Law

State vs. Federal Courts – Lynn A. Marks, Esq. (Moderator), Honorable Renee Cohn Jubelirer, Robert Heim, Esq., Honorable Theodore McKee

Segment 1 Discussion Questions (PDF)

Segment 2

What Are the Challenges to Judicial Independence – Professor Charles Geyh – Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Segment 2 Discussion Questions (PDF)

Segment 3

A Thought Leader Dialogue – Honorable Marjorie O. Rendell (Moderator), Paul Clement, Esq., Kathleen Sullivan, Esq.

Segment 3 Discussion Questions (PDF)

Segment 4

How Do Judges Decide Cases? – Honorable Anthony J. Scirica, Professor Stephen Burbank, University of Pennsylvania Law School

Is the Supreme Court Different? Dean Theodore Ruger, Linda Greenhouse

Deciding Difficult Cases – Jeffrey Rosen, President and CEO, National Constitution Center (Interviewer), Honorable Emmet G. Sullivan

Civics 101: How to Impart the Importance of Judicial Independence to the Average Citizen – Chris Satullo (Moderator), Professor Kim Wehle, University of Baltimore School of Law, Thomas L. Jipping, Esq., Michael Smerconish, Esq., Chancellor Phoebe Haddon, Rutgers University

The Nature of Judicial Independence – Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Dean David Levi  & Honorable Stephanos Bibas (Interviewer)

Segment 4 Discussion Questions (PDF)


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Pennsylvania Commission on Judicial Independence