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Judge McKee to deliver Penn State Law in University Park commencement address

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – United States Court of Appeals Judge Theodore A. McKee, who previously served as Chief Judge of the Third Circuit, will deliver the 2022 commencement address for Penn State Law in University Park at Eisenhower Auditorium on Saturday, May 14. The pomp and circumstance are set to begin at 10:30 a.m.

When asked to give a teaser to what he will tell the graduating class of 2022, Judge McKee answered, “Get involved. The democracy is crumbling before our very eyes. Work to preserve the system of law that you just spent three years learning.”

McKee was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 1994 by former President Bill Clinton, and was Chief Judge from 2010-2016, a title that he and his good friend, the Honorable D. Brooks Smith, share. Smith is a Distinguished Jurist in Residence at Penn State Law in University Park and thinks highly of his colleague, which resulted in him nominating McKee to become this year’s Penn State Law commencement speaker—an honor that Smith held in 2020.

“Judge Ted McKee is not only my great friend and colleague; he is also a judge of enormous compassion—possessed of an understanding of how much better all of us can be as one people,” said Chief Judge Smith. “I couldn’t be happier that he agreed to join us at commencement and offer words of both inspiration and hope.”

Before being nominated for the Third Circuit, McKee was elected to a 10-year term as a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. While there, he also chaired the Pennsylvania Sentencing Commission.

He began his legal career at a large Philadelphia law firm, leaving to begin his career in public service. Since then, he has been an assistant United States attorney, deputy solicitor to the Law Department of the City of Philadelphia, and general counsel to the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

“I am a child of the 60s. I vaguely remember pictures of Emmett Till in JET magazine,” said McKee. “As I got older, the courts seemed to be the only mechanism to try to ensure that people had the kind of rights they were supposed to have.”

Still living up to his public service mantra, McKee serves on the boards of directors of several nonprofit organizations and institutions including the Vera Institute of Justice and Syracuse University.

Other recognitions and achievements include:

  • member of the Board of Visitors of Temple Law School;
  • honorary member of the Board of Visitors of Syracuse University Law School;
  • adviser to the American Law Institute’s Project to revise the sentencing provisions of the Model Penal Code;
  • previously served on the Criminal Law Committee of the United States Judicial Conference;
  • member of the National Academy of Science Committee on Law and Justice;
  • inaugural member of the Council on Criminal Justice; and
  • member of the Board of the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement.

He graduated magna cum laude from Syracuse University College of Law in 1975 where he was inducted into the Order of the Coif and earned several honors for outstanding academic performance.

Today, you can find McKee drafting and editing briefs and memos. His hobbies include woodworking and training in martial arts.

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