Last night I had the opportunity to attend the screening of Kids for Cash, a documentary about two judges in Luzerne County serving lengthy sentences for receipt of cash in connection with sentencing children to detention (though one of the judges continues to proclaim his innocence – you’ve really got to watch this film). The screening was very well attended, and I was happy to see so many “Temple” people there – alumni like Abe and Sherri Reich and Judge Phyllis Beck, faculty like Rick Greenstein and Lou Natali, and friends like Stephen and Sandy Sheller. It was wonderful to see two of our alumni, Marsha Levick and Bob Schwartz, co-founders of the Juvenile Law Center, featured for their prominent role in shining a light on this injustice (and hailed as the “heroes” of the film in this Inquirer review).
Kids for Cash has a lot to say to every person learning, teaching, and practicing law today. I hope you’ll see it and let it speak to you. Let it remind you why you went to law school in the first place – because you knew that with the right skills, education, and training, you could change the world. You were right, and you still are. Let it help you connect with who you were when you first chose law as a profession (or perhaps when it first chose you). What was the vision of justice that inspired you at that time? I hope the movie rekindles, or perhaps reaffirms, that vision for you.
I also hope the movie inspires you to listen when that voice inside tells you that something feels wrong. Trust that instinct, and follow it. Look carefully and with an open mind, and when you do find injustice, don’t be afraid to shine a light on it. And be persistent. Injustice doesn’t often give up easily. In fact, the work is likely to be as daunting and difficult as the outcome is rewarding. Marsha, Bob, and their colleagues found their persistence rewarded when thousands of children had unfair convictions expunged from their records. What could be more rewarding than that?
Go see Kids for Cash, which opens in select theaters this Friday, and then ask yourself: where will you shine your light?