Criminal Law and Justice

Appealing to Better Judgment

January 31, 2019  • Institute Staff

Fourteen judges from the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and its trial courts recently headed to the Institute’s Wye River campus for the third Justice and Society Program custom seminar for the federal courts. The seminar has been offered to judges in three of America’s 13 appellate courts. “Our goal,” Meryl Chertoff, the program’s executive director, says, “is to touch judges in every circuit around the nation with our text-based course.” This special seminar asks, “How does the law know?”; offers a session on finding facts in an era of online research; examines the so-called “CSI problem” among juries; and looks at the challenges of crowd-sourced justice, as in podcasts like Serial that revisit the facts of a trial. With guidance from Georgetown Law’s Dean Bill Treanor and Harvard Law’s Vicki Jackson, the judges dug into classic readings, like Crito, and newer works by Richard Posner and Michelle Alexander. The seminar is different from those offered at conferences and Bar Association meetings, which emphasize career development and case law. Instead, at the Institute, busy judges reread classic texts and connect with the moral and ethical underpinnings of the law—and with one another.