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December 09, 2003

New Chancellor Wants Special Business Court for Philadelphia

Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Gabriel L.I. Bevilacqua today called for the creation of a special, new Commerce Court for Philadelphia and vowed that the 13,000-member Philadelphia Bar Association will work harder to ensure the election of judicial candidates that it finds "Recommended" for office "to make sure that we get our message across to the voters."

Bevilacqua, 55, who will become the 77th Chancellor of America's oldest big-city bar association on January 1 made his remarks to more than 400 of his colleagues at the Association's Annual Meeting luncheon at the Park Hyatt Hotel.

Bevilacqua, a Philadelphia resident and a partner with the center-city firm of Saul Ewing also reiterated the bar's support of a non-elective, merit-selection system for selecting judges at the appellate court level. "We must appoint appellate judges. But until that ultimate better way becomes a reality, we must do a better job of advising and guising the voters," he declared.

With an eye on the Commerce Court to handle business-related cases Bevilacqua said that he would work with "the state Supreme Court, the leadership of the First Judicial District, our legislature and all appropriate parties" to create the new court."

Among the new Chancellor's other proposals:

  • Mandatory continuing legal education for the state's judges. Currently continuing legal education is mandatory for all lawyers in Pennsylvania but not for judges.
  • The development of a new Association program "to help all lawyers who grapple with addictions, find themselves in physical or mental distress for one reason or another or face serious family problems."
  • Greater monetary support for the Bar's Lawyer Referral and Information Service and its award-winning pro bono program, Philadelphia VIP which helps those who cannot afford legal help.
  • A new Association Litigation Section exclusively for lawyer litigators.
  • A completely new Association web site with more content, new services, and greater usefulness to the profession and the public.
  • Reinstitution of an annual Bench-Bar Conference to bring lawyers and judges together "for a full dialogue on a broad range of issues."
Bevilacqua called on his colleagues to play significant, active roles in the life of the city and use their experience and talents to help better the lives of others. And he reminded them of their economic clout. "We are an historic, vital and vibrant part of this city and region. To be sure, the Philadelphia legal community is on the cutting edge of the region's service economy and we are essential to the economic well-being of greater Philadelphia. Let us stand for something," he concluded.
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