The Philosophy Club hosted “Where Exactly Do Juries Find Their Facts?” with Judge Mark I. Bernstein from the Court of Common Pleas, First Judicial District, Philadelphia today at the law school.
Bernstein provided a general overview of the kinds of questions jurors face. Citing to a number of real-life examples, Bernstein stated that jurors decide more than questions of whether a light was green or red, but also complex questions such as the life expectancy and earning potential of medical patients in wrongful death cases. Proper jury instruction is essential in those situations, Bernstein stated, emphasizing that jurors, and even some attorneys, are frequently not properly educated about burdens of proof.
Bernstein argued that fact finding remains essential even in workers compensation situations or in cases where there is a cap on damages. Even though the stakes change in those scenarios, Bernstein insisted that at the heart of every matter is the need to make a fact determination.
Determination of liability through fact finding provides meaning to the judicial process, encouraging people to seek justice in court rather than taking matters into their own hands, Bernstein said. However, the integrity of the judicial process is vulnerable because the importance of fact finding is frequently overlooked in the modern legal process, Bernstein concluded.
Judge Bernstein is a member law school's adjunct faculty. He has has served as a judge of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania since April, 1987. Judge Bernstein is the author of the comprehensive commentary on Pennsylvania Evidence published by Gann Press. He is the recipient of the Foundation for the Improvement of Justice, Inc. Award and the Lawdragon Magazine "100 Best Judges in the United States." He has taught judges and lawyers across the U.S., including teaching at the National Judicial College.