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Faculty Profiles: James Diehm
A Former United States Attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands, Professor James Diehm uses his practical experience to prepare students to be lawyers.
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Expanding Opportunities to Seek Justice and Challenge the System
“This law school is very supportive of clinical legal education,” says Professor Judith Ritter, the Director of the Pennsylvania Criminal Law Clinic at Widener Law’s Delaware Campus. The hands on experience offered by clinic work can be particularly important to students interested in becoming criminal defense attorneys. “You’re one of the least popular people in the courtroom. It’s a tough position to be in, but you have a professional responsibility to live up to,” notes Professor Ritter.

For her first year students, Professor Ritter seeks to “help them think and analyze problems like a lawyer,” and to develop an understanding of essential legal concepts. With students in the Pennsylvania Criminal Law Clinic, however, she seeks “to give them a model of a good lawyer, and to help them start to build some confidence.” Noting the pressures that a criminal defense attorney may face, Professor Ritter says, “The criminal justice system is overwhelmed, so the more a defense attorney zealously defends their client, the longer it takes. For public defenders, there is pressure to just go along.” To counteract that pressure, she works hard to instill confidence in her students.

Professor Ritter feels a sense of accomplishment “when her students “ask questions that show they are thinking critically and deeply about the law.” She is also pleased when she sees former clinic students succeed in a courtroom setting. “I love seeing former students standing up well for their clients,” she says with a smile.

When it comes to impact on the legal community, Professor Ritter hopes that her scholarly work is useful to others. She also trusts that her pro bono work makes a positive impact on the future of the clients she represents. After 14 years at Widener Law, Professor Ritter believes that she can continue to encourage her students to “expand opportunities to seek justice and challenge the system.”