HARRISBURG — Under the sponsorship of the Supreme Court, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts has created a 15-minute video that explains how the Pennsylvania courts are organized and why they are important to individual freedom in a Democracy.
The video, titled “Pennsylvania’s Unified Judicial System,” is intended to be an educational tool to be used to inform school students and adults about the functioning of Pennsylvania’s court system. The film is designed for use by judges and others when they visit schools or speak to community groups. It may also be shown in jury assembly rooms in county courthouses and via planned, stand-alone kiosks in the state capitol and the new Pennsylvania Judicial Center.
“An increasingly important role for every judge is that of being an educator,” said Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille. “Judges must find time, and take time, to speak and write about what they do as judges and to explain why a strong and independent judiciary is essential to our basic freedoms and to our tripartite system of government. The loss of civics education is potentially the most serious threat we face when we speak of threats to judicial independence.”
The video explains how the Pennsylvania court system is structured and how various types of legal cases advance through the system. It is aimed at a broad public audience and is being distributed to the president judges of all Common Pleas Courts. If played daily in jury assembly rooms, more than 200,000 people summoned to jury duty each year will see the film.
The video may be viewed by the public at Pennsylvania’s Unified Judicial System Web site at http://www.courts.state.pa.us/. Web users with Java can click on the video within “Site News,” others can click on the first item in the drop down “Jump to a page in this list.”
The AOPC also is working with the Pennsylvania Coalition for Representative Democracy (PennCORD) to find educational uses for the film. PennCORD, which seeks to improve civics education in public schools, is led by Pennsylvania First Lady and Third Circuit Judge Midge Rendell. Participants in PennCORD include the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the National Constitution Center and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
The video script was written by Superior Court Judge Jack Panella. The narrator is Ron Martin, co-anchor of WGAL-TV in Lancaster. The video was a collaborative effort of the AOPC, the Judicial Independence Commission of the Supreme Court and the Commission for Justice Initiatives of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. JPL Productions, of Harrisburg, provided professional and technical services in the production.