On Thursday, February 17th, the Widener Law Journal
and the Widener Law and Government Institute
hosted a symposium entitled “The Contribution of the Commonwealth Court to Pennsylvania Jurisprudence Since 1970,” on the Harrisburg campus.
“This is an important court. It is the only one of its type in the country,” said Law and Government Institute Director John L. Gedid
Established in 1970, the Commonwealth Court is an intermediate appellate court that hears cases involving state and local government and regulatory agencies with a focus on subjects such as banking, land use, and labor practices. It also serves as a trial court for lawsuits filed by or against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Since it’s inception, the Commonwealth Court has had a tremendous impact on modern administrative law in Pennsylvania.
Following a short welcome, the program opened with a look at the Origins and Jurisdiction of the Court by C. Grainger Bowman, esq., the nephew of the Commonwealth Court’s first President Judge, James S. Bowman. C. Grainger Bowman also served as a law clerk for Judge Bowman from 1973 to 1974, and he currently serves as the Treasurer of the Commonwealth Court Historical Society. Kristen Brown, the Commonwealth Court’s Prothonotary, also spoke about her personal experiences with the court over her years of service.
The past and present judges of the Commonwealth Court earned high praise throughout the program, with attorney Marc Jonas, who spoke on zoning law, saying, “Judge Bowman was – in my mind – a brilliant jurist.”
Throughout the day, the speakers looked at specific areas of Pennsylvania law where the Commonwealth Court’s decisions have had a significant impact, ranging from procedural due process to labor law, prisoner litigation, environmental law, and public utility law.
Speakers included local attorneys, elected officials, and current and former Commonwealth Court judges. Several speakers also wrote articles for the Widener Law Journal’s symposium issue.
“I want to thank Widener for putting together this program to honor the Commonwealth Court,” said current Commonwealth Court Judge Hannah Leavitt. Commonwealth Court Judge Rochelle Friedman also singled out adjunct Professor Dan R. Shuckers
for his role in putting the symposium together, saying, “Its very meaningful for those of us who work so hard to make sure that justice is done for the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”