Day in Court

by Myra Saturen
September 24, 2013

Members of the PALS (Paralegal and Legal Secretaries) club and Criminal Justice clubs at Northampton Community College (NCC) had the experience of a lifetime when they visited the Superior Court of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia on September 13.

This rare educational opportunity, which was originally planned to be a trip to Constitution Hall alone, developed when PALS Club President Anne Newhouse asked her instructor in American Constitutional Law class, Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Jack Panella, whether he would be in Philadelphia that day. He checked his schedule, saw that he would, and invited the club to visit the court.

The club voted upon, planned and did fundraising for the trip. Finding that they had a few additional van seats available, they invited some members of the Criminal Justice Club to come along.

Called away to Luzerne County, where he was assigned to the Jerry Sandusky case, Panella asked Judge James J. Fitzgerald to meet with the students in his place. On September 13, Fitzgerald discussed his personal history and history of the court and led the group on a private tour, including his chambers. His chief law clerk and an assistant in the prothonotary's (record keepers and recorders) office spoke about their role at the court.

The trip to Philadelphia also included visits to the National Constitution Center by all group members and stops at the Old City Hall, Liberty Bell Center and other historic sites in Philadelphia by students split into smaller groups.

The special day gave participants a new outlook. "It was a great honor to have that experience, and I am very appreciative to Judge Panella, Judge Fitzgerald and his entire staff for a very enlightening and educational experience," says Newhouse.

"I loved walking through the halls and knowing that there had been hundreds of thousands of people who have walked through the same halls," says Holly Martin, PALS secretary. "You can read about a case in a textbook or in a news article and grasp the technical aspects of it, but walking through the Superior Court makes cases, decisions and who it affects real."

PALS now plans to collaborate with the Criminal Justice Club on fundraisers to raise money for a visit to Washington, D.C.


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