On Tuesday, September 28, Supreme Court Justice Thomas Saylor
, the Jurist in Residence on the Harrisburg campus, spoke to students as part of a special Pizza and Policy in the Pit event entitled “May it Please the Court: An Intimate Conversation with Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Thomas Saylor.” Dean Ammons introduced Justice Saylor, who spoke candidly and welcomed questions on any topic from the students in attendance.
Justice Saylor opened by explaining how his Jurist in Residence position at the school came about. Widener Law is the only school in Pennsylvania with a Jurist in Residence but the practice exists at other law schools throughout the United States. He stated that law students spend most of their time studying opinions, and he wanted students to be able to interact with someone who actually writes those opinions.
Another question focused on what some of the common mistakes new attorneys make are. Justice Saylor answered that when seeking to preserve an appeal, many new attorneys hold back their objections. If the attorney does not make those objections, however, the appellate court will not be able to review it on appeal because it will not be on the record.
Justice Saylor also reminded the students to be cognizant of what court they are in and what that court can do for them in terms of relief. He gave the example of an attorney arguing before the Supreme Court, noting that the attorney would need to be concerned with the policy aspects of the decision. If the court decides the way the attorney wants, how will it affect hundreds of cases later on?
Justice Saylor was also asked about the impact of judicial activism. Explaining that judicial activism has many different meanings, he noted that when there is constitutional adjudication, the Supreme Court is making value choices. He stressed that this is not activism, but a necessary part of the job.
Finally, Justice Saylor concluded with a question on the camaraderie among the Court. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner encouraged the Justices of the United States Supreme to have lunch together during her tenure, and many students were curious as to whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court also gathered for luncheons. Since the Justices are only together 6 or 7 days a year, he said that when they are together they have dinner. He stressed that the court is not ideological, saying, “I cannot say the Court was always that way, but we are a collegial group.”