Program Offers Students Valuable Insight on What It Means to Be a Judge
Web Editor - Published: April 4, 2013
“When you’re on the bench, you have to see everything – it’s like going from mono vision to widescreen – because now you have to understand everything in an impartial way, and you have to listen,” said the Honorable Carolyn Nichols of the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia as she talked about the difference between serving as a judge and going to court as a lawyer to advocate for a client.

Judge Nichols made her remarks as part of the Growing Judges at Widener University School of Law hosted by the Black Law Students Association in the Ruby R. Vale Moot Courtroom on Monday, April 1st, 2013. She was joined on the panel by two other Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judges, the Honorable George W. Overton ’86 and the Honorable Joel S. Johnson ’91, who both graduated from Widener Law. The Honorable Lydia Y. Kirkland, a retired judge who served on the Philadelphia Municipal Court for 26 years and serves as President of the Judicial Council Clifford Scott Green Chapter Growing Judges Program, also spoke.

Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judges Elizabeth Jackson and Ida K. Chen, the Co-Chairs for the Growing Judges program, were also in attendance.

“We have – at this point – 160 judges currently sitting around the nation who have graduated from this law school,” said Widener Law Dean Linda L. Ammons in her opening remarks. She also mentioned that Widener Law’s Delaware campus serves as the east coast campus for the National Judicial College and that the National Judicial College will again bring its Advanced Administrative Law class to the Delaware campus this summer.

“I m just so pleased that the Judge Clifford Scott Green Chapter of the Judicial Council is here to present this particular program,” she concluded before turning the program over to BLSA vice president Candace Embry, who introduced the judges.

“We are an organization of minority judges, and the Clifford Scott Green Chapter is an affiliate of the National Bar Association’s Judicial Council,” explained Judge Overton, who moderated the panel. “We try to enhance the image of the judiciary and try to improve the quality of life for the community by bringing awareness of the legal process,” he added.

Each of the judges discussed how they became judges and touched on the election process in Pennsylvania. “It has been a true blessing to serve in Philadelphia. I enjoyed my job thoroughly from the time I came on at the age of 33 until I retired eighteen months ago. It is a wonderful, wonderful job, and it is a blessing that is to be handled with care,” said Kirkland.

Both Overton and Johnson spoke warmly of their time at Widener Law, with Johnson saying, “It was a great experience here while I was in law school.”

The panel discussed what judges look for when hiring law clerks, ethics, and challenges for young lawyers. All of the judges stressed the importance of professionalism and establishing a good reputation.

“Never compromise your integrity and your credibility. That’s rule number one. Stick to that, and the rest will take care of itself,” Judge Nichols concluded.

At the conclusion of the program, Judge Overton made the exciting announcement that several judges from the Judge Clifford Scott Green Chapter had agreed to take on unpaid interns for this summer with details to be worked out with Dean Ammons.