The NJC Experience.

The National Judicial College is fortunate to have its home on the historic campus of the University of Nevada, Reno. The location of the College in such a beautiful setting is an essential part of The NJC Experience.

Visitors to the College can take a walk around the university campus and eat at one of the various restaurants, enjoy a cup of coffee and take in the architecture, old and new. At the heart of campus is the Quad, a picturesque place for reflection lined with giant elm trees that were planted in 1908 (pictured on the cover). The Quad, based on Thomas Jefferson’s design for the University of Virginia Lawn, is listed as a “Jeffersonian academic village” on the National Register of Historic Places.

UNR Quad

The historic Quad on the University of Nevada, Reno campus

Just as the Quad serves as a place for meeting and reflection, so too does The NJC for judges from across the nation and the world. The NJC Experience allows for interaction with colleagues that often results in lifelong friendships. The College is a safe and collaborative place where judges can discuss issues they are facing in their role. The College prides itself on the diverse group of judges that it has in its classrooms at any given time. “[The College] is able to bring the diverse backgrounds from the attendees together in one unified class of very well-rounded judges from across the country,” said NJC alumnus Judge Roger Forando of the Town and Village Justice Court in Granville, New York. “The professors and staff are experienced and exceptionally knowledgeable in their fields.”

Our Expert Faculty

In fact, our expert faculty is at the core of the unifying The NJC Experience. To ensure that The NJC’s participants receive a world-class education, the College educates faculty members about adult education principles and practices. After participating in our faculty development workshops, The NJC’s faculty is then able to create interactive courses that often feature a “learn by doing” model. The outstanding judges and industry professionals who share their passion and ideas with participants are also experts in building a community of lasting friendships and camaraderie. Faculty members often say that teaching at the College is one of the most enriching experiences they have in their career as they gain new friends and learn just as much from teaching as they did when they were a student at The NJC.

“Teaching at The NJC has been a blessing in my life,” said the Honorable Don Ash, senior judge for the state of Tennessee. “First of all, it makes me so proud to be part of a community who wants to improve the quality of justice across our country. I have had the opportunity to work with judges from almost every state and various countries. The quality of these men and women make me feel good about being a judge. The faculty I have worked with have made me strive to be a better teacher and honestly have helped me become a better judge. I want my legacy as a judge to be one who had a positive impact on others. I believe The NJC is helping me work toward that goal.” Judge Ash has been a member of the faculty since 2001 and has even sparked his own “Don Ash Fan Club.”

“I think the best judges are both teachers and learners,” said Kelly Tait, a judicial branch communication consultant and NJC faculty member. “The NJC has given me the opportunity to be both of those, too, in a critical profession that has striving for fairness at its core. Before I started teaching for The NJC in 2002, I had a healthy respect for judges, but my appreciation for the difficulty of the job has grown exponentially over the years, as has my respect for the people who do it.”

She continues, “I consider it one of my responsibilities as an instructor to draw out the resources in the class, and with a group of judges, there are a lot of resources. Teaching at The NJC has reinforced for me the value of this sharing — of perspectives, information, techniques — and of involving the learners at a hands-on level whenever possible. The NJC creates an environment where that can take place, where judges can both step back for some perspective on the incredibly difficult job they have and be ready to step forward when they return home. It’s been an honor for me to be part of The NJC Experience — I have learned as much as I’ve (hopefully) taught.”

Judge Thomas Cheffins, a federal administrative law judge, shares Tait’s admiration for the College and those who walk its halls. “Foremost, The NJC is the best judicial education there is. Why wouldn’t someone want to come to the College? There are always top-quality people at The NJC and I enjoy interaction with judges from around the country and the world.” Judge Cheffins considers it a great honor to be a member of the faculty since 2001. “This has given me more opportunities to expand my horizons,” he said. “There is always a constant sharing of information and we, as faculty, learn just as much as we give to the students. It’s always a learning experience.”

The faculty I have worked with have made me strive to be a better teacher and honestly have helped me become a better judge.
Hon. Don Ash, NJC Faculty Member; Senior Judge, TN
Teaching at The NJC has reinforced for me the value of this sharing — of perspectives, information, techniques — and of involving the learners at a hands-on level whenever possible.
Kelly Tait, NJC Faculty Member; judicial branch communication consultant

Judge Cheffins’ appreciation also extends to the home of The NJC. “You have got to love the location. You have the Sierra Nevada mountains, Lake Tahoe, and a true college experience with The NJC on the beautiful University of Nevada, Reno campus.”

Emerald Bay

Lake Tahoe’s scenic Emerald Bay

The National Tribal Judicial Center

This broadening of horizons extends to our Tribal Center, established in 2002 as another key component of The NJC Experience. “The NJC widens perspectives,” said the Honorable Leland Wigg-Ninham, who joined The National Tribal Judicial Center faculty in 2009. “I’m not an attorney, and the College provided me with the opportunity to meet other non-attorney judges. It has also allowed me to participate in discussion groups with law-trained judges and judges from other tribes.” Since the beginning of The National Judicial College, tribal judges have attended The NJC’s courses and had this interaction with other tribal members from around the country, but in 1992 the College began offering courses specifically for the tribal judiciary. This part of The NJC Experience focuses solely on tribal justice.

“You have got to love the location. You have the Sierra Nevada mountains, Lake Tahoe, and a true college experience with The NJC on the beautiful University of Nevada, Reno campus.”

— Hon. Thomas Cheffins

“I can’t pick just one thing about the Center that I like the best,” said Judge Wigg-Ninham. “The courses provide a great foundation for judges new to the bench, but also are enriching for those who have been on the bench for many years. I like the interactive discussion groups and the education the College has provided to make me a better teacher.” Judge Wigg-Ninham loves to learn as much as he can every day. He earned his bachelor’s degree at age 55 and has plans to get his master’s in Dispute Resolution Skills. His thirst for education is also evident in the three certificates he has received from the College, including Tribal Judicial Skills, Dispute Resolution Skills, and Special Court Trial Skills.

Certificates and Diplomas

Our Professional Certificate Program, along with our masters and doctorate programs, are another hallmark of The NJC Experience. The NJC designed the certificate program to provide judges with the specialized knowledge, skills, and abilities they need to succeed and grow as jurists. Our master’s program is one of only two offered nationwide. The Doctor of Philosophy in Judicial Studies, which was approved in 2001, is the only doctoral program in the nation for judges. These collaborations with the University of Nevada, Reno and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges provide an experience that takes judges to the height of their profession and provides them with an intellectual assessment of the role of the American judiciary.

Many of our alumni, even when not enrolled in one of these programs, can’t wait to return to the “judicial quad” to reflect and delve deeper into their role as judges. “I look forward to more classes at The National Judicial College,” said the Honorable Patrick B. Augustine, U.S. administrative law judge. “They provide me the opportunities for not only classroom involvement but interaction with my peers to exchange ideas.”

Judge Michael N. “Nick” Deegan, district judge in Gillette, Wyoming, first attended the College years ago, but was recently here for a course. “It was noted that I had been attending The NJC since 1984,” he said. “While it seemed just a few short years ago I attended my first course at the College, it was in fact 30 years ago. When I first became a judge, I had no idea my career would still be unfolding three decades later. I know I could not have ably stood the challenges of being a trial court judge without the professional development I found at the College together with the collegiality I have found with other judges.”

The courses provide a great foundation for judges new to the bench, but also are enriching for those that have been on the bench for many years.
Hon. Leland Wigg-Ninham, National Tribal Judicial Center Faculty Member