Judge Jacqueline F. Allen, originally from Memphis, Tennessee, has nearly 18 years of experience as a Trial Judge. Judge Allen first clerked for the Honorable Julian King in Philadelphia’s Civil Trial Division. She then worked for the litigation departments of SEPTA, Conrail and Unisys, handling personal injury and contract disputes before numerous federal and state juries and arbitration panels.
Judge Allen is the Judicial Team Leader for all major civil actions filed in Philadelphia County. She was happy to share her wisdom with PAJ’s Future Leaders.
Q. What are your responsibilities as a Team Leader in Philadelphia’s Civil Division?
A. It’s sort of like being a train conductor. I need to make sure that cases are ready when they are being sent out to another Judge for trial. I review a high volume of cases and get to see the cases from inception to being trial-ready. It also allows me to get to know the fellow Judges on my team. Our team has brown bag lunches once a month to exchange important information about trial results, issues arising in the course of trial, and the attorneys that come before us.
Q. What are the most important lessons every young lawyer should learn?
A. What a lawyer has at the end of the day is his or her reputation. Straightforward, honest advocacy will place you in better standing with Judges and your peers. Also, beyond knowing the law of the case, 1 think you have to be able to translate that into a simple message that conveys a human element. Great lawyers know the law, but they are also able to take legal principles and have them mean something to people.
Q. What advice do you have for lawyers presenting discovery motions in Your Court?
A. Keep it short. There is a lot of volume that I must handle. The most frustrating part of Discovery Court is, oftentimes, the attorneys have not talked about the motion before they argue. Make sure there is a real issue for me to decide. Be crisp and clear on the particulars of what the issue is.
Q. What advice do you have for young attorneys in front of a jury?
A. Don’t forget that the jury is there. So often lawyers forget that there is a jury in the room because they are so focused on the witness. While the conversation is between the lawyer and the witness, the people you want understanding and appreciating the dialog are the jurors in the box. If they aren’t connecting with you, your points are lost.
Q. What memories do you have of great trial lawyers during your time all the bench?
A. Some of the best lawyers I’ve seen have been plaintiff and defense attorneys in medical malpractice actions. I’ve been truly impressed by their level of preparedness on both the legal and the medical issues presented. Sitting as a judge in complex cases, including product liability, and medical malpractice, has been the most intellectually stimulating part of this assignment.
Q. Any memorable openings or closings?
A. Part of a judge’s job is to keep a straight face. However, permit me to smile just a bit because a couple instances do come to mind. I have seen great closing arguments where counsel will decide that he is going to use a great line from a movie, but the movie reference is dead on arrival. I’ve also had some challenging moments while listening to closing arguments when an attorney is making a point and expecting a connection to he made with the jury and instead, some members of the jury appear to have a “deer in the headlights look” or to be asking themselves, “what’s he talking about?”
Q. What common traits have you seen in all great trial lawyers?
A. They have a theme or focus that is carried throughout the case. A great trial lawyer has to be a great story teller.