Courthouse Virtual Tour
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5th Floor

Courthouse Virtual Tour

The fifth floor is home to District Judges Nora Barry Fischer and Joy Flowers Conti, Third Circuit Judges Michael Fisher and Joseph Weis, and the courthouse library.

(In courtroom) As Judges Fisher and Weis are on this floor, I thought that I would give you more information about the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Litigants who are dissatisfied with decisions made by a judge at the district court level can appeal those decisions to one of the thirteen courts of appeals in the United States. In this district, district court decisions are appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The Third Circuit has jurisdiction over the district courts of Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and the Virgin Islands, and the district courts within this circuit are bound by the decisions of the Third Circuit. If a case is appealed to the Third Circuit, it is typically decided by a three-judge panel; however, some questions receive an en banc hearing, which means that all active judge on the Third Circuit decide the case. Currently, there are twelve active judges and nine senior judges on the Third Circuit. Like district court judges, appeals court judges are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Right now, there are two seats open on the Third Circuit, which will likely be filled by President Obama in the near future.

The Third Circuit is based in Philadelphia, but not all of the judges are based there. For example, as I mentioned earlier, Senior Judge Weis’s and Judge Fisher’s offices are located right down the hall. Also, the Third Circuit’s newest judge, Thomas Hardiman, is based here. In fact, this courtroom and chambers was his prior to his appointment in 2007 to the Third Circuit. Some other notable judges on the Third Circuit are the first lady of Pennsylvania, Marjorie Rendell, and Donald Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry. You will notice several flags outside the chambers door of Judge Weis. Since the Third Circuit’s jurisdiction includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and the Virgin Islands, the flags of these respective jurisdictions are represented in the order in which they were admitted to the Union, with the United States flag being first. As the Virgin Islands is a territory and not a state, its flag is last.

(In atrium) As you learned earlier, this courthouse was renovated in 2006. One of the results of the renovation was this large atrium. From here, you can see much of the Hill District. When it is time to bring down Mellon Arena, you can see that we will have a front-row seat.

(In library) Law clerks are attorneys who work closely with the judge to research and analyze the legal issues of a case. That means that much of their time is spent doing research and writing memos to the judge. While much of their research is done online, there are still many sources that they turn to here in the library. When they are not doing research, they are often assisting the judge in various courtroom proceedings, which gives them an opportunity to observe a number of civil and criminal cases. In this courthouse, most of the district judges have 2-3 clerks. There are generally two types of law clerks – career clerks and term clerks. Career clerks are attorneys who typically have many years of experience, and who work with the judge on a permanent basis. Term clerks are usually new attorneys who are looking to gain litigation experience, and who work for the judge from one to four years.

The librarian has a masters degree in library science as well as a law degree.