Remembering Penny Pether: A Champion for Change in Legal Education and Our Judiciary
IAALS is very sad to note the passing of Professor Penelope Pether, of Villanova Law School. Penny taught at both Villanova and American University, but was an Aussie by birth and education. One of Penny's areas of scholarship was the theory and practice of judging, and in that context she and I became friends. She had a particular interest in the process of appellate review: the numbers of unpublished opinions and the way in which they are chosen, and the use of law clerks. Penny and I presented together on a couple of occasions on the subject of judicial performance evaluation: what voters or appointers should be looking for in a judge and how to get the appropriate information.
Penny was also involved with our Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers Initiative, because she was an innovative legal educator. Last year, she sat down with us for a Voices from the Field interview, in which she shared her ideas of student-focused teaching and showcased other theories of legal education. I found a review of one of Penny's courses online, posted by a student, which captures the essence of her teaching strategy: “She's fantastic and makes a point to keeping law HUMAN and focusing on certain social justice aspects of criminal law. Her grading is no walk in the park - but she's a fantastic prof.” I am quite certain that most of her students – whether in law school or in other settings across the country – would agree. She was a powerful voice for change in both legal education and our judiciary. I will miss her energy, her enthusiasm, and her passion, but know that her legacy will live on.