Pennsylvania Commission on Judicial Independence

Established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2005, the Commission on Judicial Independence (PACJI) was charged, among its tasks, to foster greater understanding by the public about the role of the judiciary, explain the value of an independent judiciary in America, and illuminate unjust criticism of the judicial system.

Since then, the Commission has created educational programs and seminars for the public and other, often in collaboration with other sponsors.

Summary of Significant Commission Activities

Fall 2019

The Commission was honored to co-sponsor a symposium on judicial independence with the Rendell Center for Civic Engagement. The day-long event was held at Penn Law School and featured judges and scholars from around the country, culminating with a dialogue including retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Also Fall 2019

The Commission utilized contemporary technology in presenting a livestream program simulcast across the Commonwealth and available via social media. The program featured Justice Max Baer, who was joined by jurists from all court levels, each explaining what judges do. This hour long seminar was moderated by Franklin and Marshall Colleges' Dr. Terry Madonna.

March 2018

The Commission sponsored a program with Drexel University's Kline School of Law in Philadelphia. The program focused on the Pennsylvania Constitution; its history and how it has been interpreted over the preceding 50 years. Panelists engaged in a thought provoking dialogue on how the state constitution has been interpreted and amended over the past half-century. The panel was moderated by United States District Court Judge C. Darnell Jones.

November 2016

The Commission co-sponsored a program explaining problem solving courts at the University of Pittsburgh. The program featured a panel discussion moderated by Jon Delano. Panelists included Justice Debra Todd, Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel, Common Pleas Court Judges John Kennedy and Common Pleas Court Judge John Zottola.

May, 2016

Co-sponsored a lecture on the “Second Founding”, by William M. Carter Jr., Esquire, Dean and Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, in celebration of the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil Rights Amendments (13th, 14th and 15th Amendments) to the United States Constitution. This televised lecture included opening remarks from leaders of all three Branches of state government, and took place in the historic supreme court capitol courtroom.

November, 2014

Created in collaboration with author Joel Cohen and the National Constitution Center a panel discussion, “Blindfolds Off – Judges on How they Decide…In An Era of Discontent,” at the National Constitution Center.

2013 and ongoing

Collaboration with PAForward, an enterprise of the Pennsylvania Library Association designed to promote greater public literacy in various areas, including civics, through creation and distribution of information by and development of programs at Pennsylvania’s public libraries.


Created and co-sponsored with Dickinson College’s Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and The Dickinson School of Law of The Pennsylvania State University “Justice Unfunded / Justice Undone,” a program on court resource issues moderated by former Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh featuring senior officials of the National Center for State Courts, the National Governor’s Association, Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, Pennsylvania Budget Secretary Charles Zogby and state Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd.


Assisted the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts in the development of a DVD and companion brochure, “A Citizen’s Guide to Pennsylvania’s Unified Judicial System,” and facilitated their distribution to schools, libraries and others interested state-wide.


Created and sponsored with Dickinson College’s Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues a Court/Media Program featuring distinguished Pennsylvania journalists and judges in a forum moderated by John Curley, professor and Distinguished Professional in Residence at Penn State University.


Created with the Pennsylvania Bar Association and PennCord, Teacher Institutes on the Judiciary in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton, and Clarion. The day-long programs for secondary school teachers — often presented in tandem with law schools or public school intermediate units — were designed to encourage a greater emphasis on civics education and to foster a better understanding of the role of the judiciary.


Sponsored regional workshops with the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association and the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters for journalists and judges designed to foster understanding of their respective roles and practices.

September, 2007

Sponsored day-long activities and a speech in Harrisburg by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (ret.) regarding the importance of an independent judiciary and unjust criticism of judges.

March, 2007

Facilitated lectures, subsequently published by the Duquesne Law Review, on merit-retention by Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Thomas G. Saylor and PACJI Counsel Darren Breslin for the inaugural Matthew J. Ryan Law and Public Policy Forum at the National Constitution Center.

Summer 2006

Coordinated presentation on judicial independence issues by Bert Brandenburg, executive director of the public interest group “Justice at Stake” for the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges.