Visit to federal courthouse prepares students for career choices

Penn State New Kensington student Andrew Holodnik’s major is preparing him for a career with the U.S. Marshals Service. Recently, an instructor for one of his courses provided an opportunity for Holodnik to talk with federal marshals and gain first-hand knowledge of the day-to-day activities of the service.

Judge Samuel Goldstrohm, magisterial district judge for Armstrong County and adjunct instructor in administration of justice at the campus, accompanied 25 campus students in his criminal justice class to U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh. Judges and staff of the court, which serves the western district of Pennsylvania, held a series of panel discussions that described the inner-workings of the court system.

“Judge Goldstrohm believes that learning can occur outside of the classroom, and can be applied to the information we are learning in his course,” said Holodnik, a senior in the administration of justice program. “We had the opportunity to talk to the people who make the courtroom procedures happen.”

“I take my students on a field trip each semester to a criminal justice agency or facility because it is the very best way to demonstrate lecture materials,” said Goldstrohm, who has taught at the campus for five years. “Students will long remember the first-hand observation of a federal courthouse or a maximum security prison.”

The daylong trip, which included lunch with the staff, featured discussions that delved into the roles of federal marshals, prosecutors and public defenders, judges and law clerks, and support staff in the court system. Students had the chances to ask questions and interact with the speakers.

Deputy Marshals Jason Byham and Andy Balint talked about their duties and demonstrated the various tools, such as bullet-proof vests and shackles, used in their positions with the service. As to be expected, the topic was a favorite of Holodnik.

“I learned about the subdivisions that include fugitive task force, judicial protection, witness protection, special operations and diplomat protection,” said Holodnik, a graduate of Penn Hills High School. “The marshals also talked to us about how to apply, look and prepare for jobs in federal agencies.”

During the second panel discussion, the student contingent was exposed to both sides of the criminal justice system. Soo Song, first assistant U.S. attorney and Michael Navaro, public defender, explained the process of prosecuting and defending federal criminal cases.

The third panel comprised court support staff -- courtroom deputy, jury clerk, docket clerk, court reporter, information technology manager, financial supervisor and personnel supervisor. Each presenter talked about their role in court operations. Holodnik found this to be beneficial to students majoring in a variety of disciplines, especially information science and technology, business administration and finance.

“This trip was not just for administration of justice majors,” said Holodnik, a member of the Lion Ambassadors club at the campus. “Courtrooms are now more high tech with recording devices, computers, projection equipment and many more electronics. The financial supervisor deals with payments of court costs, as well as retribution to the plaintiffs.”

Highlight of the trip was the panel discussion that featured three judges and their law clerks. U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak, Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Lenihan and Magistrate Judge Robert Mitchell explained their judicial functions, as well as their judicial philosophies that are applied to the administration of law. Clerks Tony Kovalchick, Janine Englehart and Carol Hesz talked about their research responsibilities and how the work impacts human lives on a daily basis. Holodnik felt privileged to be able to talk with the judges, and said that Hornak, the newest member of the court, offered students the most poignant advice.

“Judge Hornak told us to be open to opportunity knocking,” said Holodnik, a resident of Penn Hills, a suburb of Pittsburgh and the largest municipality in Allegheny County. “He mentioned that every offer may provide people with more knowledge, new knowledge that they may have not received if they passed up on the opportunity.”

Holodnik’s opportunities will begin knocking soon. He expects to earn his second Penn State degree, a bachelor’s, in May 2013. He received an associate degree in business administration last year. When the campus established the administration of justice program in fall 2010, Holodnik’s saw a chance to expanded his career options, and fulfill an aspiration.

“After witnessing an aggravated assault and rendering first aid to the victim, I realized that I wanted a career that I could give back to the community,” said Holodnik, who will attend a police academy after graduation. “I was able to obtain some very useful knowledge from the Marshals Byham and Balint and hope to become a deputy marshal.”

The Marshals office is the oldest federal agency and is a part of the executive branch of government. It is responsible for the protection of court officers and buildings and the operation of the judiciary. The service handles fugitive investigation, apprehension and prisoner transport, and it serves arrest warrants.


Media Contacts: 
Last Updated February 07, 2013