Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts (“PMC”) is a nonpartisan nonprofit, that, among other things, educates the public about how courts function and the laws which courts interpret and apply and advocates for fairness, accessibility, and respect in the courts. Founded over 35 years ago, PMC originally focused on supporting the elimination of judicial elections in favor of a merit selection process for appellate court judges. While PMC still favors a merit selection system, it has since expanded to educating students, journalist, lawyers, and the public at large about the courts and the rule of law.
The lack of knowledge, understanding and confidence in the judiciary – the third branch of government – is very troubling. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, less than 30% of students in the United States are proficient in civics and the public’s confidence in the judiciary is currently at an all-time low. As a result, judicial independence and the significance of our Constitution and founding documents have been challenged in recent times, as has the footing of our democracy.
PMC works to educate all Pennsylvanians, including judges, lawyers, students, reporters and everyday citizens about our courts and how to navigate them with confidence, and to understand the importance of the judicial branch and its relationship with the other branches of government. PMC’s educational programming is tailored to helping self-represented litigants understand the court system, with the goal of leveling the playing field. Unfortunately, “over 92% of Americans don’t get enough or any legal help with their civil legal problems.” Ron Flagg, President of Legal Services Corp. All of the workshops offered are related to the court system and are presented by lawyers and judges with expertise in the topics. We offers workshop curricula to accompany almost every step of an individual’s life and the legal matters that are necessary to navigate. Our workshop topics include: Navigating and Understanding PA Courts & Judicial Elections, Paul Titus Criminal Court, Family Court, Landlord-Tenant Court, How to Administer an Estate, Protection from Abuse, Necessary Legal Papers, Threats to the Independence of the Judiciary, Expungement of Records & Clean Slate, Constitutional Amendments in PA, Veterans Court, Your Rights in Civil Court Matters.
Through our school and college civics educational programming, PMC brings lawyers and judges into the classroom, exposing students to different topics of the law, and real life experiences, which encourage interactive discussions in the classroom. Our civics education programs are intended for schools with a student population at or below the poverty level. Many of the students have had some kind of experience or encounter with the judicial system, either themselves or through a friend or family member, yet don’t fully understand what has occurred or their rights. The students in Title 1 schools face many economic, social, emotional, language and cognitive barriers as well as opportunity barriers, PMC also brings students into the courtroom, hoping to inspire students to become involved and engaged in our democracy and judicial system as well as to gain a better understanding of how laws are applied and interpreted. We recognize that there are many websites that offer teaching materials for teachers to discuss civics education for their students. Their focus is on providing resources for the teacher. We are different in that our work is “Hands-on.” By going into the classrooms with lawyers and judges to do the teaching and bringing the students into the courthouses, we are providing invaluable real life experiences, resources and connections to the students.
PMC welcomes attorneys and judges to help us with our educational programming. Please reach out to [email protected]. Most of our programs are recorded and available for viewing at www.pmconline.org