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Dean Sean Scott on Judicial Fairness Coalition Panel

Nov 27 2023
Dean Sean Scott, with fellow panelists, Heather Rosing, Esq. (left) and Hon. Robert Trentacosta (right)
Dean Sean Scott, with fellow panelists, Heather Rosing, Esq. (left) and Hon. Robert Trentacosta (right)

With questions of judicial ethics making national news, California Western provides expert guidance to its students and the broader community on the vital questions facing our democracy and its legal institutions. On November 16, 2023, CWSL and the California Judges Association (CJA)’s Judicial Fairness Coalition (JFC) co-hosted a live forum on judicial independence, criticism of the judiciary, and the state of ethics and civility in the legal profession as a whole. Dean Scott noted before the forum that this event “provides an opportunity to inform San Diegans about why judicial independence must be preserved. By combining forces with the JFC, we hope to increase the visibility of this important topic and highlight how critical judicial independence is at this moment.”

Dean Scott was herself a panelist, alongside Heather Rosing, Esq., CEO and President of Klinedinst PC and JFC Co-Chair, and San Diego Superior Court judge Hon. Robert Trentacosta. The event was moderated by retired San Diego Superior Court judge Hon. Randa Trapp, who began by sharing the JFC’s mission to provide the public with information to help them better understand the role of judges, the rule of law, the ethical restrictions and responsibilities placed on judges, judicial selection and elections, qualifications that candidates should possess for judicial office, and judicial independence.”

In Judge Trentacosta’s opening remarks, he commented on established Attorney and Judicial Ethics Codes and provided examples of recent ethical violations. Ms. Rosing provided insights into the necessity of judicial independence and recent threats that have arisen to judicial independence over the last decade. She noted that the JFC was formed to address the sharp increase in criticism of the bench that she and her colleagues had witnessed in recent years, and that recent changes have been made to laws to allow judges the opportunity to respond to unfair criticism. 

Dean Scott, addressing the topic through an academic lens, outlined California Western School of Law’s Civility Code and the school’s efforts to instill in our students the importance of civility both at the school and throughout their legal careers, including showing respect for the bench. Dean Scott also commented that ongoing revelations about potential ethical breaches of sitting SCOTUS justices has a significant impact on students’ perceptions about the legitimacy of the judicial system. She also noted her concerns that social media can have a corrosive effect on students’ perception of judges and the importance of civility, in the academy, in the law, and throughout society.  

The panel concluded with each of the speaker’s insights on the importance of balancing an understanding that “attorneys and judges are human and subject to human frailties,” as Judge Trapp put it and the importance of promoting civility throughout the legal profession.