Nonprofit Partner Spotlight: Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts

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Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts was established as a result of a Pennsylvania Judicial Reform Commission report from 1988, which revealed that public confidence in the court system was extremely low. Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts (PMC), our nonprofit partner, seeks to increase confidence in a qualified, fair, and impartial Pennsylvania judiciary and address the need for judicial reform through education and advocacy. PMC focuses on civic education and engagement, equal access to justice, and judicial modernization and reform. 

The court system is notoriously difficult to navigate. For many, the rules and processes of the court structure are intimidating and unfamiliar. Moreover, access to just judicial processes can be limited due to racial and socioeconomic barriers. PMC seeks to address this by creating new points of entry and engagement for citizens to learn about and engage with the judicial system. PMC in the Community is PMC’s hub of community outreach programs dedicated to civic education and advancing justice. PMC Watches is a citizen court monitoring program in which participating Philadelphia residents gather to observe, record, and offer recommendations on court proceedings. This program provides Philadelphians with direct insight into the inner workings of court operations and ensures judicial accountability. 

In Philadelphia, most defendants do not meet with an attorney before their bail hearings and many hearings last for 90 seconds or less. These hearings occur every day without public attention. In order to advocate for accountability and improvements, PMC, in partnership with the Philadelphia Bail Fund, launched the Philadelphia Bail Watch initiative. Philadelphia Bail Watch invites volunteers to sit in on bail hearings, monitors the District Attorney’s bail reform efforts, and reports to criminal justice stakeholders. As of October 2018, 76 volunteers have monitored 611 hearings in Philadelphia. Of these hearings, 50% of defendants were granted cash bail.  

In addition to engaging everyday Philadelphians with their judicial system, PMC has created The Media, the Courts & Counsel Initiative, in collaboration with Temple University, in order to cultivate cross disciplinary relationships with journalists, court administrators, and attorneys. Through this initiative, PMC hopes to improve communication across key players, which will ultimately lead to integrated, high-quality information for the public.

Learn more about Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts