BIOGRAPHY OF JEANNINE TURGEON, JUDGE
Judge Jeannine Turgeon is a native Central Pennsylvanian. She was born in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, on March 19, 1953 and attended elementary school in Lancaster County. She then moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania attending E.H. Phillips Elementary School and graduated from Central Dauphin East High School (1970), prior to attending Chatham College (B.A. 1974) and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (J.D. 1977-Class President 1974-76). Judge Turgeon is enrolled at the National Judicial College for her Master's Degree in Judicial Studies.
Judge Turgeon values greatly her mentors from her college employment and clerkship, including the Honorable K. Leroy Irvis (summer intern for first African-American to serve as Speaker of the House in any state legislature in the U.S. since Reconstruction), State Treasurer Grace M. Sloan (secretary-clerk during summer and winter college breaks for the first female State Treasurer in Pennsylvania), Secretary of State C. Delores Tucker (secretary to Director of Women’s Division of Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee, the Vice-Chair of the Democratic State Committee, who was also the first female African-American cabinet officer in the U.S.; chair of the Democratic National Committee Black Caucus; the founding President of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Association for Non-Violent Change, the first African-American to serve as President of the National Federation of Democratic Women.) and the Honorable Genevieve Blatt (law clerk for the first female elected to statewide office in 1955 when she was elected Secretary of Internal Affairs and then appointed to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania).
Following law school she served as a law clerk to the Honorable Genevieve Blatt (1977-1979), and then commenced practicing law at Nauman, Smith, Shissler & Hall (1979-1981) the oldest Harrisburg law firm. In 1981, she became partner in her own firm, Campbell, Spitzer, Davis & Turgeon, later Davis & Turgeon, until November of 1991, when she was elected as the third Democrat and the first woman judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County since its creation in 1785 nearly 230 years ago (retained in 2001 and 2011). In 2015 she became Supervising Judge of Dauphin County’s first Family Court.
Civic and Community Activities
Judge Turgeon has always been active in numerous civic and community activities. Prior to ascending to the bench she was on the Board of Directors of various committees and Boards including the Harrisburg Junior League, Capital Region Economic Development Corp. (CREDC), the Heinz-Menaker Senior Citizens Center, officer in the Dauphin County and PA Bar Associations, and a founding board member of the Dauphin County Victim Witness Program.
She has served on the Governor’s Pre K Counts Executive Leadership Council; the Steering Committee of the Dauphin County Capital Beginnings Early Childhood Initiative; Drug Free Pennsylvania Board of Directors; the Community Action Commission Board of Directors; the Harrisburg Center for Healthy Child Development (Penn State/Greater Harrisburg Foundation) and Chatham University’s Landscape Architecture Advisory Board. She was appointed by Harrisburg’s Mayor as one of the City’s delegates to the Presidents’ Summit on Youth at Risk and thereafter was founding member and Vice-President for the Tri-County Alliance for Youth at Risk. She was a founding and Masters Member of the William W. Lipsitt Inn of Court. She currently chairs the Dauphin County biannual Meet Your Judges Program which provides an opportunity for the public to meet their judges, learn about our judicial system and ask questions, and she is the Chair of the Dauphin County Do the Write Thing Challenge which sends two ambassadors (the winning 7th or 8th grade girl and boy essayists on violence in their home, school and community) to the National DTWT conference in Washington, DC. She is Co-Chair of the Central Pennsylvania Judges and Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers and Judges. She is also a Board Member for Widener Law School’s Diversity Committee Advisory Board and serves on Carson Long Military Academy’s President’s Advisory Committee.
She sits as a volunteer judge for statewide Moot Court for Widener Law School, Dickinson Law School and the PBA High School Mock Trial competitions. She is a judge for the annual James A. Finnegan Foundation Essay Contest, a foundation established to provide internships in PA government to outstanding accredited college/university students. She has volunteered many years as a judge for the Paxtang Halloween parade. She has served on the Board of Directors of her Bellevue Park community and recently co-authored a book “Bellevue Park – Our First 100 years,” (Xlibris Publishing Co., 2009).
She was selected to serve as a panel member by the Legal Intelligencer/PA Law Weekly to review nominations for their "Lawyers on the Fast Track" awards and also the Arlen Specter Award/Attorney of the Year Award that is presented to an attorney or judge that has done the most to impact the law, the legal profession or the cause of justice in Pennsylvania.
Judicial Committees and Projects
Judge Turgeon is Vice-Chair of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Suggested Standard Civil Jury Instructions Committee (2000-date) (Reporter 2004/2005; Vice Chair 2005-date). Following her appointment to this Committee, she encouraged the PA Supreme Court to permit jurors to take notes and receive written copies of jury instructions prior to deliberation, which innovations have been adopted. She also convinced the Committee to assume the challenging and arduous task of rewriting the two volumes of instructions in "Plain English," an ongoing project, See, Improving Pennsylvania’s Justice System Through Jury System Innovations, 18 Widener L.J. 419 (2009). The Committee recently adopted a jury instruction concerning jurors’ prohibition from utilizing social media during trials, cited as being a model jury instruction.
She was appointed by the PA Supreme Court to serve as a member of the PA Supreme Court Domestic Relations Rules Committee (1997-2003 Chair 2002-2003) which advises the Supreme Court on matters related to the procedural rules governing actions for divorce, child support guidelines, custody, paternity, protection from abuse and related issues.
She also served on the PA Commission on Sentencing (2003-2009) which researches, develops & recommends sound statewide sentencing guidelines all judges throughout Pennsylvania must abide by, and monitors compliance with the guidelines and served as Chair of the Sentencing/Re-Sentencing Work Group.
She chaired the PA State Trial Judges Family Law Section from 1996 to 2000 and is Vice-Chair of their Judicial Security Committee (2005-date). She has served as a member of the PA Attorney General's Family Violence Task Force, the Pennsylvania Coalition against Domestic Violence (PCADV) Protection from Abuse Database Project Advisory Committee, Common Pleas Computer Project Committee, the Joint PA Trial Judges Task Force on Gender Fairness in Courts (Chair, 1996–1997); and serves on the Executive Committee (Zone 3 Representative 2008-date).
She also served on the Pennsylvania’s Joint State Task Force on Parenting Coordination which drafted a proposed statewide Rule and standard Parenting Coordination Agreements/Orders for high-conflict custody cases. These proposed forms have served as models internationally.
She serves from time-to-time as an Adjunct Professor at Widener School of Law (sentencing and family law courses) and also has taught criminal law as an Associate Professor at Penn State University, Capital Campus. She is a frequent lecturer for the PA Bar Institute, the PBA Family Law Section, the PA State Trial Judges Conference, Domestic Relations Association of PA, CASSP, bar associations, community organizations, churches, schools and has also testified before the State House Judiciary Committee.
Court Assignments and Innovation Practices
Judge Turgeon’s service on the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas, a court of general jurisdiction handling civil, criminal, juvenile, family and equity matters (1992-date). As of January 1, 2013, the Court was divided into civil and criminal divisions, and she now only handles civil and family law matters. Her special assignments have included: Domestic Relations Judge (1992-1994; 2000-date); Civil Calendar Judge (1994-1995); Emergency Custody Judge (1994-1995); Custody Conciliation Supervisor (1993-1995); Mandatory Seminar for Separating Parents Program Supervisor (1993-1996); Asbestos Litigation (1994-1995, 2006-2008); Minor Settlements (1994-1995); Miscellaneous Guilty Plea/Sentencing Court (1992-1995, 1998-1999, 2008-2012); Juvenile Court (1996-1997); Mental Health Court (1998-1999); Prison Board Member (1998-1999); Election Board Member (1995, 1999); and Protection From Abuse Court (2000-2001). Her practices and preferences can be viewed by clicking this link
As the Court Civil Calendar Judge, she revised the court's jury verdict forms to provide for a "jury foreperson" rather than "jury foreman" and instituted publishing summaries of all civil jury trials and verdicts in the Dauphin County Reporter, which practice continues today, brought all civil jury cases certified for trial readiness current with no back log. She also developed innovative and revised jury policies and jury instructions, See, Improving Pennsylvania’s Justice System Through Jury System Innovations, 18 Widener L.J. 419 (2009).
During her tenure as Domestic Relations Judge in Dauphin County she has instituted many new programs to expedite support conferences, increase support collections and enforcement (collected over $37 million in 2014), helped compose a comprehensive booklet for the public explaining child support for litigants and references to various human services and organizations for related problems, work release outreach, speaks to various community groups, organizations and TV programs to educate the public about support law and has arranged for community organizations to provide books for DRO and prison inmates to read to their children.
While administrative judge of PFA Court handling domestic violence cases, she instituted a holistic courtroom approach referring both plaintiffs and defendants to various human service providers including, batterers’ intervention programs, housing, Drug & Alcohol, Children & Youth Services, mental health evaluations/treatment and parenting programs, See, PFA Court – A Problem Solving Court, Pennsylvania Family Lawyer, December, 2001.
During her term as Juvenile Court Judge, she created a Juvenile Justice Work Group to create collaboration between Juvenile Probation, Children & Youth, D&A and MH/MR agencies and developed a Dauphin County Truancy Task Force.
Judge Turgeon’s passion is improving our courts’ family law systems. She served on the PA Supreme Court Domestic Relations Rules Committee which revised custody rules to process custody cases more promptly, increased support guidelines and adopted other child-centered rules. Recognizing a lack of training available for non-professional supervisors of visitation in dependency and custody cases, she created a statewide task force for supervised visitation creating what is said to be the only educational DVD on this topic. The DVD and informational booklet have been distributed internationally, (http://supervisedvisit.wordpress.com/
) See, A Guide for Supervised Visitation
, Pennsylvania Family Lawyer
, June 2012; DCBA Newsletter
, July 2012; Training DVD Helps Person in Charge of ‘Supervised Visitation
, Child Support Report
, August 2012, No. 34 Vol. 8; A New Approach to Preparing Families to Deal with Supervised Visitation
, The Pennsylvania Lawyer
, Nov/Dec 2012.
Working with the county bar association’s family law section and as Chair of the Family Law Section of the PA Conference of State Trial Judges, she introduced to our state the concept of providing four-hour seminars to inform parents about the effects of separation, divorce and custody litigation on children and how to minimize its effects on their children. Today nearly every county in Pennsylvania requires custody litigants’ attendance to this educational seminar.
In criminal court proceedings, Judge Turgeon instituted a holistic approach, long before it became a recent trend, ordering defendants to in-patient drug and alcohol treatment programs, mental health programs, batterers’ counseling and sex offender programs as well as directing them to complete their education to obtain job skills, attend parenting classes to learn how to focus themselves on changing their lives to become better parents and role models, and sending non-dangerous defendants to work release centers rather than jail. She created a community task force to outreach to defendants and their families to enroll their children in Pre-K programs. She sentenced sex offenders to pharmacologic treatment in addition to incarceration based upon the latest scientific research, See, Judges: Should Pharmacological Treatment Be a Condition of Certain Sex Offenders’ Probation or Parole? Jurispondence, (PA Trial Judges) May, 1997. She has sentenced over 7,000 adult defendants including intermediate punishment, county prison, state correctional institutions, life without parole and a death penalty.
She served as a member of the PA Commission on Sentencing and upon learning 75% wrongful convictions are based upon erroneous or mistaken eyewitness testimony, Judge Turgeon collaborated with Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, world-renowned eyewitness and memory expert and Prof. Elizabeth Francis, an expert in psycholinguistics and crafted model jury instructions on eyewitness identification which can be found at this link
Judge Turgeon Co-authored with Ashley Milspaw, Psy.D., The "Attached" Family Law Lawyer and Judge - The Importance of "Attachment" in Custody Cases, 37 PA Family Lawyer Issue No. 2 (June 2015); co-authored with Dr. Elizabeth Francis, an expert in psycholinguistics and Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, world-renowned eyewitness and memory expert, Crafting Model Jury Instructions for Evaluating Eyewitness Testimony, The Pennsylvania Lawyer, Sept/Oct 2014 & National Center for State Courts Jur-E Bulletin, Aug. 29, 2014; her article Avoiding Tweeting Troubles, Facebook Fiascos and Internet Imbroglios –Adapting Jury Instructions for the Age of Social Media The Pennsylvania Lawyer, Sept/Oct 2014 & National Center for State Courts Jur-E Bulletin, Oct. 3, 2014 provided the recently improved new Pennsylvania civil jury instruction for jurors to help prevent juror social media misconduct; co-authored with Judge Katherine B.L. Platt, What’s in a Judge’s Toolbox for Children in High-Conflict Families Without Parenting Coordinators? 35 PA Family Lawyer Issue No. 3 (September 2013); co-authored with Prof. Elizabeth Francis, Improving Pennsylvania’s Justice System Through Jury System Innovations, Widener Law Journal, 18 Widener L.J. 419 (2009); co-authored an article with Mary Cushing Doherty, Esquire, Partnership Means Progress For Family Court Reform for the PBA Family Law Section, Pennsylvania Family Lawyer, May-June 2003; she authored PFA Court – A Problem Solving Court, Pennsylvania Family Lawyer, Dec., 2001; Judges: Should Pharmacological Treatment Be a Condition of Certain Sex Offenders' Probation or Parole? Jurispondence (Pennsylvania Trial Judges) May 1997; How to Create A Custody System That Works, The County Line (PBA) July 1996; and A Custody System That Works, Jurispondence (Pennsylvania Trial Judges) Dec., 1995 and in The Pennsylvania Lawyer; Dec., 1996.
Judge Turgeon has received numerous community and professional awards. She was selected as one of the 150 Living Legacies of Harrisburg in 2010 and recently featured in the book “Legendary Locals of Harrisburg” by Todd M. Mealy (Arcadia Publishing 2014); The PA Psychological Association’s Public Service Award for her significant contributions to the public welfare (June 2013); The Patriot-News Editorial Board’s “Sunshine Award” in recognition of her Administrative Order permitting the use of silent electronic communication devices in her courtroom (March 2012); The 2011 Agape – Satyagraha Peace Maker Award for Promoting Peace & Conflict Resolution (September 2011); The Dauphin County Commissioners’ Certification of Recognition for Do the Write Thing & Promoting No Violence and Cultural Awareness (July 2010); The Harrisburg Sesquicentennial Commission Living Legacy-Chosen as one of the 150 living legacies (June 2010); The Heinz-Menaker Senior Center’s Lift Every Voice Award (June 2010); The Coretta Scott King – Women for Diversity Award (Women Connect – March 2009); The Heinz-Menaker Senior Center’s 35 Year Service to Community Leader Pioneer Award (October 2007); The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International’s Paul Harris Fellow Award (April 2005); Domestic Relations Association of Pennsylvania (DRAP)Special Recognition for Many Years of Dedicated Service to PA Families (September 2003); Edgewater Psychiatric Center’s Community Service Award (October 1998); Juvenile Detention Center Association of Pennsylvania’s Distinguished Award Outside Field of Detention (1996); Eagleville Hospital Board of Directors’ Eagleville Hospital Award (June 1995) and Chatham College Distinguished Alumna Award (1995).
Family and Hobbies
She is married to attorney Luther E. (Chip) Milspaw, Jr., Esq. and has three daughters, two step-daughters, three granddaughters and two grandsons. She enjoys photography, flower gardening, reading, scuba diving and underwater photography, occasional soaring and skydiving, hosting dinner parties, and spending time with family and friends.