[Article submitted by Denise S. Vicario, Esq. and Robert R. Watson, Jr., Esq. to be published in the Fall 2018 issue of SIDEBAR Magazine.]
Pictured above (left to right): Gregory S. Voshell, Esq.; Mary C. Pugh, Esq.; The Honorable Juan R. Sánchez; The Honorable Mark A. Kearney; Cary L. Flitter, Esq.; and The Honorable William H. Yohn.
Norristown, PA -- On September 6, the MBA was pleased to welcome incoming Chief U.S. District Judge Juan R. Sánchez to Norristown for a meet and greet and update from our Federal District Court. Sponsored by Cary L. Flitter, Esq. and Gregory S. Voshell, Esq., Co- Chairs of the Federal Court Practice Committee, Chief Judge Sánchez made a morning visit to the Bar Association, providing commentary and insights following the first month-and-a-half spent in his new position as Chief District Judge.
The Eastern District of Pennsylvania is the third-busiest Federal District Court in the country. Chief Judge Sánchez, who has been a Federal District Judge since 2004, expressed his pride and support for the Eastern District’s current track record of efficiency and streamlined operations for both litigants and attorneys. While born in Puerto Rico and growing up a native of the Bronx, Judge Sánchez hails from Chester County, where he was in the Public Defender’s office from 1984 until 1997, and served as Common Pleas Judge from 1998 to 2004. The MBA was glad Judge Sánchez took a break on his commute into Center City to meet with us.
In addition to discussing the Federal District Court’s general operations and procedures, Judge Sánchez discussed pro bono opportunities at the Federal Court, which are near and dear to him personally. He hopes to engage more county attorneys into these programs while providing pro se litigants with competent and effective legal representation – and continue to maintain a robust panel of participants.
The current volunteer opportunities include participation in panels that deal with prisoner civil rights and employment claims. The prisoner civil rights panel provides legal representation to prison inmates for constitutional violations alleged to have occurred during incarceration. The employment panel members represent plaintiffs in cases brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination Employment Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and state claims which can be properly appended to federal employment claims. Anyone interested may contact Miriam Silberstein, the Court’s Volunteer Panel Administrator, at 267-299-7033.
Judge Sánchez advised that the Eastern District currently has five vacancies, with a sixth vacancy pending in October when Judge Joel Slomsky assumes senior status. There are currently three nominees pending before the Senate – Delaware County Judge Chad F. Kenney and Joshua Wilson are currently awaiting a confirmation vote before the full Senate, and Judge John Milton Younge is awaiting a Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing.
Kate Barkman, Clerk of Court, joined Judge Sánchez and added to his remarks. Ms. Barkman wanted to make sure that the MBA membership was aware that the Eastern District’s website has been updated. She urges attorneys to use the website for basic information including local rules, individual judges’ procedures and court closings due to weather or emergencies. Also, Ms. Barkman reported that civil and criminal filings are trending down in the Eastern District consistent with other jurisdictions.
Following those comments, Chief Judge Sánchez and past MBA President and U.S. District Court Judge Mark Kearney were available for questions and comments concerning Eastern District procedures. The morning reception was well attended by members of our Bench and Bar, and the MBA appreciated the opportunity to bring Judge Sánchez to our Association.