Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery spoke to Widener Law students on Tuesday February 26th, offering personal stories and anecdotes about his life and how he became a judge. In 1998, Judge McCaffery gained notoriety after he worked with members of the Philadelphia City Council to develop “Eagles Court”, a courtroom convened in the bowels of Veterans Stadium that handed out penalties to unruly fans arrested during games. At the conclusion of his talk, Justice McCaffery graciously took questions from students in the audience.
Justice McCaffery spoke extensively about his background, emphasizing to the students how far hard work can take you. Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1950, Justice McCaffery’s family immigrated to the United States when he was still young. After graduating from Cardinal Dougherty High School in Philadelphia, he joined the United States Marine Corps and served in the Vietnam War. When he left active duty, Justice McCaffery joined the Philadelphia Police Department. He served as a police officer for twenty years while putting himself through night school to earn a bachelor’s degree from LaSalle University and later a juris doctor from Temple University School of Law. He spent five years practicing law with Lavin, Coleman, Finarelli & Gray, before he was elected to the bench in 1993. In 2001, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court appointed McCaffery as the Administrative Judge of the Municipal Court, and in 2003, he was elected to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. Finally, in 2007, he successfully ran for election to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Justice McCaffery also spoke about his service in the Reserve. After leaving active military duty, he remained in the Marine Corps Reserve, rising to the rank of Captain before transferring to the United States Air Force Reserve. Called into active duty for Operation Noble Eagle after the September 11th attacks, he was later called up by the Department of Homeland Security in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Justice McCaffery rose to the rank of Colonel before leaving the military. He finished up the engaging talk by taking questions from the audience about his thoughts on gun control and whether judges should be appointed or elected.