"Best Practices": Supplemental Practicum for Pennsylvania Magisterial District Judges

Article excerpt

The Special Court Judges Association of Pennsylvania represents the courts of initial jurisdiction in Pennsylvania. These courts are located in the communities in which they serve and operate outside of the centralized county system. Magisterial District Judges maintain a high level of interaction with members of the local community.

Judge Gadzicki and Judge Duncan are members of the Ethics and Professionalism Committee of the Special Court Judges Association. This Committee issues written opinions in response to specific ethical inquiries raised by Magisterial District Judges. In addition, the Committee's responsibilities include providing instruction to the recently elected judges in the area of ethics and professional conduct.

Magisterial District Judges represent a unique branch of Pennsylvania's unified judicial system: these judges are elected to six-year terms and operate apart from the insulation afforded to the higher courts. The increased level of public contact poses a distinctive backdrop for ethical considerations and concerns.

The newly elected Class of 2012 was significant because the 69 members represented a turnover of more than 12 percent of the sitting judges. The training entitled "Ethical Considerations of Magisterial District Judges" took place during the one week mandatory supplemental education program at the Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The primary purpose of the presentation is two-fold: to familiarize the judges with "The Rules Governing the Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges" adapted from the Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Conduct, and to provide them with sufficient contextual information to operate within the letter and spirit of the Rules. …