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Judge John E. Jones brings civil procedure to Law School


Today's special session of argument court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania happened before an audience of future lawyers. Judge John E. Jones III '80 of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania visited Penn State Law to hear two arguments on a federal case before him, Brian Tech v. United States of America, Civil Action No. 1:09-cv-00047.

Counsel for the United States traveled from Washington, D.C., and Haverford, PA, to argue before Judge Jones, who is perhaps most famous for deciding Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, i.e. the "intelligent design case". 

Judge Jones maintained a calm, unhurried style of questioning. He often said to counsel, "I respect your point, but I want to press you on something else." 

Flat screen displays around the courtroom allowed everyone to easily follow the Plaintiff's presentations. Following the arguments, Judge Jones praised the attorneys for their quick cooperation on the day's change of venue and their fine arguments. "You saw exemplary advocacy today," he said. 

Judge Jones also praised the use of Power Point. In this instance, he said, ballooning and highlighting words worked well, advising future lawyers to "take care that the technology doesn't overtake argument and the points you are trying to make." 

After the arguments concluded, Judge Jones opined that he would have benefited from an experience like this as a law student. 

"It was very helpful to see civil procedure in action, especially the things we've been studying in class," said first-year student Amanda Boylan from Dallas, Texas. 

"It was really no different than being in a courtroom anywhere else," said Plaintiff's attorney Nicholas E. Chimicles of Chimicles & Tikellis LLP in Haverford, PA. In his argument to the court he thanked Judge Jones for "inviting us to this absolutely magnificent courtroom."   

The case centers on a class of taxpayers who are entitled to the refund of a telephone excise tax that they paid between 2003 and 2006. Judge Jones heard a Motion to Dismiss filed by the United States of America and a Motion for Class Certification filed by the Plaintiff. 

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