Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Superior Court Special Session at NCC to Honor Veterans

Boys & Girls Club Dean Young (L) and Judge Jack Panella (R) 
Earlier this moth, I attended a fascinating lecture at Lafayette College concerning the one and only time the United States Supreme Court has ever conducted a criminal trial. It happened in 1906, when a Chattanooga Sheriff thumbed his nose at a Supreme Court Order. Justice John Marshall Harlan intervened in the scheduled hanging of a black man who was convicted in state court of raping a white woman on evidence that was woefully inadequate. The Sheriff, a former Confederate soldier, would rather hand him over to the mob than a federal judge. And that's what happened.

Since there was no federal homicide statute at the time, the best feds could do was charge the Sheriff with contempt. He spent 90 days in federal prison for his involvement in the murder of a black man, and returned home to a hero's welcome in Chattanooga.

It might sound like a meaningless case to you, especially since the Sheriff only got 90 days, which he could do standing on his head. But it might be among the High Court's more significant rulings.

It was the first time a black lawyer was permitted to argue a case before the Supreme Court. It was the first time that the Supremes ruled that they have jurisdiction over claims that federal constitutional rights have been violated in state court proceedings.

This terrific lecture was sponsored by Superior Court Judge Jack Panella and Northampton County Judge Leonard Zito.

After bringing the law to Lafayette, Judge Panella is bringing it to Northampton Community College. Literally. This is no lecture, but an actual session of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, both today and tomorrow.

The state superior court is a 15-judge appellate court that hears appeals from county decisions. Although the Supreme Curt occasionally will review their decisions, that is rare So their decision is the final word in most cases.

It's an extremely busy bench that still rides the circuit. Judges bounce from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to Harrisburg, and each jurist averages at least one opinion a day. But there are times when President Judge Cory Stevens (a coal cracker) will allow cases to be heard at colleges and county courthouses. And he's given Judge Panella permission to conduct a session, both today and tomorrow, at Northampton Community College's Lipkin Theatre.

Both court sessions will begin at 9 a.m. each day during which a panel of Superior Court judges will hear oral arguments on appeals from local civil, criminal and domestic trial court cases. Tuesday’s session will be preceded by a first-of-its-kind opening ceremony to honor veterans that will include a presentation of the colors and pledge of allegiance. It is open to the public.

Judge Jack A. Panella will be the presiding judge on a panel that will include Judge Cheryl Lynn Allen and Senior Judge William H. Platt. Judge Panella served on the Northampton County Common Pleas Court prior to being elected to Superior Court. Judge Platt served on the Lehigh County Common Pleas Court, where he used to scare the hell out of me. Judge Allen hails from Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, and won despite all odds.

“Honoring veterans is meant to acknowledge that our government — and especially our armed services — have fought to maintain the high standards of judicial freedom and independence that our Constitution requires,” Judge Panella explained.

I was invited, but unfortunately, I'll be in the court of first guess tomorrow in Northampton County.

Should I avoid the gallows, I'll drop in on Wednesday and try to give you all a first hand report.


8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wish I could go to that. That sounds like it is going to be awesome. The outlined program of speakers looks really good.

Anonymous said...

but i thought the 1906 thing was an apparent suicide. suicide rate back then was really high among blacks. must have been some inferior genetic thing

Anonymous said...

Just a thought but, is the honorable judge local here to look iver the antics of the lacal political corruption¿

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