On Tuesday, Republican State Senator Lisa Baker was appointed majority chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee. This possibly marks the first time that majority leaders for the Senate and House judiciary committees are nonlawyers. Former trial attorney and retired Sen. Stewart Greenleaf previously headed the committee for over 30 years.
This new year has also seen the appointment of State Representative Robert W. Kauffman as majority chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Both senators are now tasked with addressing legal reform and the daily challenges within the judicial system. However, the legal community is not concerned at all with these changes.
Scott Cooper, partner at Schmidt Kramer and an active member of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice (PAJ), believes that while top leadership positions regarding legislative issues are generally held by trained attorneys, judiciary committee leaders can still be successful without a law degree as long as they have a knowledgeable and dedicated team behind them.
“There are also less lawyers in the legislature than ever,” Cooper said in an interview with The Legal Intelligencer. Cooper and other attorneys agree that tackling critical policy issues can be done with the appropriate staff and resources from the broader senate leadership.
Sen. Baker is currently meeting with several stakeholders and members of the judiciary committee in her district. She hopes to bring her personal ties to the legal community and experience within the criminal justice system as committee chairwoman for the state of Pennsylvania.