The Commonwealth Court comes to Temple University
Students at Temple University got a chance to watch the full Commonwealth Court in action when it came to Temple and heard real cases. It was the first time the court’s hearings had been open to an entire university, and more than 1,500 students, pre-law society members, employees and faculty member sat in to watch the law in action.
Professors such as event organizer Sam Hodge, professor of legal studies at The Fox School of Business and Management, incorporated the court’s visit into their class discussion and assignments.
|(Photo courtesy I. George Bilyk)
Students at Temple University got a chance to watch the full Commonwealth Court in action and hear real cases when it came to Temple Nov. 15 in the Student Center.
It was the first time the court’s hearings had been open to an entire university, and more than 1,500 students, pre-law society members, employees and faculty members sat in to watch the law in action.
“It was really great to watch live cases, rather than just learning about case facts or laws in a classroom,” said Chris Sullivan, a Fox School freshman taking “Law and Society,” a core requirement for business students.
“The tension between the lawyers and the judges was really engaging and helped me get into it,” he added.
Professor of legal studies at The Fox School Sam Hodge organized the event.
“The appellate members make decisions that are binding to everyone in the state of Pennsylvania, so outcomes of the cases have very broad implications,” Hodge explained.
“Most people never get to see a court case like this in their life, so having the entire court at Temple was a particularly good learning experience. The judges really enjoyed visiting, and are considering coming again at some point,” he added.
Many professors, including Hodge, incorporated the event and cases into their coursework to enhance their curricula. Students in Hodge’s class researched the facts of the cases as if they were creating an argument for prosecution or defense. Then, after seeing the actual cases play out, they wrote critiques about which side they believed presented a stronger case.
The court heard seven cases, and each took approximately 45 minutes. This allowed new waves of students to come in during the intervals, and get a chance to watch. The cases themselves involved many different elements of the law, which made them ideal case studies for students, Hodge said.
For example, the first case, Banfield v. Cortes, dealt with the validity of electronic voting machines. Another case, Orloff v. Department of Bureau of Driver Licensing, dealt with the Driver License Compact Act and a one-year suspension given in Pennsylvania for a “driving while intoxicated” conviction in New Jersey.
Some students, such as Alexandra Steinberg, a Fox School freshman in Hodge’s “Law and Society” class, made direct connections between what they saw and class material.
“Right now in class, we are talking about things like search incident, arrest proceedings and preliminary arraignment,” said Steinberg. “The case on interstate DUI’s played out a lot of what we had learned about these things.”
Other students, such as political science senior Melissa Spinner, who was taking both “The Supreme Court,” and “Law and Society” this semester, were offered extra credit if they attended the hearings.
“I have two law classes this semester,” Spinner said, “and going to watch the Commonwealth Court was a good chance to see what we were learning about in action. It was great to see how appellate courts are run.”
- Julia Straka
For the Fox School of Business and Management