The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has released a new manual to help state District Court judges in sex crime cases.
Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin says the “benchbook” is an update of a 2007 version for Common Pleas judges, compiling newer standards and ‘best practices’ for judges taking part in sexual offense cases.
Eakin says the new book updates sexual assault definitions, addresses practical aspects (such as setting bail), and includes resources and references on sexual assault and rape crisis centers.
“There are sensitivities and intricacies in sexual assault cases that are unique to it, and this was an effort to give the front line courts something to help them recognize issues and deal with the things that are unique to this type of crime,” says Eakin.
Eakin says the Benchbook Advisory Committee that crafted the manual included a mix of prosecutors, defense attorneys, researchers, and other practitioners to ensure there was no bias toward either the victim or the accused.
Superior Court Judge Jack Panella was the book’s principal author; he also wrote the 2007 version for Common Pleas Courts.