Education, Training, and Development

What This Core Competency Is and Why It Is Important

Education, Training, and Development can help courts improve court and justice system performance and achieve their preferred future.  To understand what this entails, a paradox must be kept whole.  That is, the judiciary must maintain the rule of law through enduring principles and predictable processes while also responding to powerful forces shaping both society and the judiciary.

The end is excellent court and justice system performance.  One means to this is the education, training, and development of judges and court staff, especially those in and aspiring to leadership positions, and many others both inside and outside the court.  Thus the term judicial branch education as opposed to judicial education.

Because judicial branch education helps courts maintain balance between the forces of change and enduring principles and predictable processes, it cannot be remedial and limited to training.  Rather it is strategic and involves education, training, and development.

Court leaders who oversee, fund, plan, and deliver judicial branch education identified the forces that will shape society and challenge the judiciary through the year 2020 during the 1999 National Symposium on the Future of Judicial Branch Education.  The symposium results were published by the Michigan State University based Judicial Education Reference, Information, Technical Transfer (JERITT) project.  With some modifications, the forces identified in the JERITT publication and their implications are:

  • Demographics and population shifts:  By 2050, or perhaps even sooner, there will be no dominant racial or ethic group in America.  The impact of global interdependency and needed multi-cultural competency extends far past interpretation and translation to the very heart of Anglo-American jurisprudence.  Education, especially for experienced professionals, should challenge learners to take account of the demographics and population shifts challenging the judiciary.

  • Science: DNA, cloning, surrogate parenting, and genetic engineering --  to name a few -- present novel legal, moral, ethical, and operational challenges.

  • Technology:  The American economy has evolved from an industrial to an information base.  Court customers expect on-time and accurate communication and information.  Private sector consumer service models and technology-based “do it yourself" solutions have relevance for the judiciary and judicial branch education.  Court employees increasingly work in electronic mediums as information managers rather than in paper intensive environments as filing clerks.  With education and technology, they can add value through informed and timely decisions and communication.

  • Resource Limitations:  At the very best, public budgets will be stagnant.  Competition for talented staff will increase.  Talented staff must be identified and developed through career-long and enlightened judicial branch education and human resource practices.

  • Decreased Public Satisfaction and Increased Public Expectations:  Both national and state surveys indicate that the public thinks less of the judiciary than in the past, yet expects more from it.  There are significant questions about the justice received by the poor and people of color.  A national conference for state teams selected and led by the 50 state chief justices identified, and NACM confirmed, that the number one current and future issue on the national public trust and confidence agenda is unequal treatment in the justice system.  Courts at all levels must address this issue in their judicial branch education programs.

  • Self-Represented:  More and more people will come to the courts without lawyers.  The line between service and giving legal advice is increasingly tested across all case types.  Appropriate responses require education, training, and development of judges, staff, and others on whom the courts rely to do justice.

  • Different and Expanded Services:  Courts do not and clearly will not "just" resolve cases.  Effective justice and efficient case processing means problem solving.  Routine business practice requires more than basic skills and on-the-job training.  Education is critical to needed collaboration with other governmental entities and judicial and staff competence.

  • Resistance to change:  Even as the above forces of change are acknowledged, courts and their leaders often work to retain the courts’ traditional decision rules, structure, and processes.  They do so when judicial independence or impartiality is or appears to be threatened.  Judicial branch education must comprehend both enduring principles such as rule of law, due process, equal protection, and independent and impartial judicial decisions and the need for change.

To meet these challenges, education, training, and development must be:

  1. Continuous and creative – responding both to traditional legal processes and powerful and changing demands;

  2. Inclusive – ensuring that education, training, and development (judicial branch education) happens in all trial courts and across the judiciary and justice system and is delivered to a target audience that is broader than judges and court staff;

  3. Accessible and tailored – requiring that personal and professional growth and skill development opportunities are equally available and readily available and affordable, in time and money; and that they consider the background, experiences and needs of individual judges, staff, and others on whom the courts depend;

  4. Well-managed – ensuring that judicial branch education for judges, staff, and others is aligned with the court, its mission, vision, structure, and workflows and that it is well-managed and built around sound adult education methods and advanced technology.

  5. Evaluated – making sure that judicial branch education programs evolve in response to the social context, needs for equitable access to development opportunities, and assessments of their success in meeting personal needs and organizational priorities.

Court leaders must actively lead judicial branch education in their courts.  Education, Training, and Development are not pleasurable diversions from daily routines, training for the sake of training, or a luxury.  Effective court leaders ensure that Education, Training, and Development are recognized as essential and build a culture to support it.  This means excellence in programming; demonstrable results, both inside and outside the courts; and reliable and consistent funding.

The target audience is diverse in education, experience, professional orientation, age, gender, and race.  Courts have employees who remain with the court their whole career.  They also have employees who come and go quickly.  When education and training and human resources are aligned, the court is better able to identify, develop, and retain its best employees.  When talented staff leave the court, competent replacements take their place or are recruited from the outside.  This ensures that the most promising people find job satisfaction and acceptable career paths in specific trial courts and state court systems or in the judicial administration profession generally.  While judicial branch education supports succession planning, cross-jurisdictional movement of talented staff benefits all courts through organizational learning across state, county, and court levels, both state and federal.  Whenever possible, judges and staff should be educated and trained together.  This demonstrates that the judicial and justice system are interdependent; the issues are systemic.

Beginning in the late 1960s, NACM, the Institute for Court Management, and others created a new profession--court management.  This early and continuing work prompted acceptance of a new profession throughout the world.  Inclusion of judges, court mangers, and staff into this profession and its ethos of service and justice is a profound objective of judicial branch education.

To contribute to the development of individuals, courts, and the court management profession, judicial branch education must: 1) span the career of individuals, and not be limited to orientation or training to perform specific tasks; 2) provide for significant interaction among program participants; 3) include experienced professionals as faculty and in the planning and evaluation process to ensure real and perceived problems are addressed in every program; and 4) address a wide variety of topics, both practical and theoretical.  Through programs that meet these criteria, courts are better able to become and remain learning cultures.  Education, Training, and Development sustains enduring principles, maintains and protects daily routines, and stimulates needed change.  Those in leadership positions set the vision and take responsibility for the maintenance of the organization and its growth and transformation. The bottom line is excellent trial court and justice system performance.

View the Summary of Education, Training and Development Curriculum Guidelines or click on each of the five Curriculum Guidelines to see the associated Knowledge, Skills and Abilities:

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