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Taking the Bench: A Free Online Course for New General Jurisdiction Judges

The National Judicial College designed this self-study course for general jurisdiction judges who have recently been elected or appointed but have not yet taken the bench. The course will also be valuable for judges who recently began their judicial careers. The course will take approximately seven to nine hours to complete. Judges may enroll in the course at any time. Once they have enrolled, they will have five weeks to complete the course. The course has three components: (1) Welcome to the Course; (2) Four Learning Modules; and (3) Help and Resources.

Welcome to the Course: This section provides introductory information about the course. It also includes a short video from one of the developers.

Module One: Transition from Bar to Bench: After completing this module, judges will be able to: (1) define “principled decision making”; (2) differentiate between those community, political, business and financial activities that they are allowed to attend and those they are not; (3) summarize their responsibilities for winding up a law practice (if relevant); (4) describe those cases in which they must disqualify themselves or otherwise note on the record the associations they had with previous clients or organizations; (5) recite the importance of a fair and impartial court system and the rationale behind judicial independence; (6) identify the types of mental health issues personally faced by judges, new and experienced, and describe potential solutions; (7) state the impact that isolation has on some judges and describe possible options for alleviating it; and (8) define the positive aspects of being a judge.

Module Two: In the Courtroom: After completing this module, judges will be able to: (1) describe their contempt powers with an understanding that contempt is only to be used as a last resort; (2) define the elements for making a successful record for appellate purposes; (3) outline ways to avoid wasting time at trial; (4) identify best practices for providing access to self-represented litigants; (5) explain the importance of “procedural fairness”; and (6) summarize the role of judicial discretion and ways it can be exercised appropriately.

Module Three: Behind the Scenes: After completing this module, judges will be able to: (1) define more clearly their appropriate role in encouraging settlements; (2) describe their role in caseflow management; (3) determine whether they have a role in employment issues; (4) identify the elements of effective judicial opinion writing; (5) summarize the necessary components for an effective court interpreter program; and (6) state the criteria that they should consider in sentencing.

Module Four: The Judge, the Court, the Community: After completing this module, judges will be able to: (1) define when they may speak publicly about the justice system without jeopardizing fairness in cases before them; (2) describe methods for dealing with the media with the ultimate goal of educating the public about the courts; (3) identify ways to appropriately respond to criticism; and (4) summarize methods for ensuring the safety of themselves and their families.

Help/Resources: This section provides contact information in the event that the participant has difficulty navigating the site. The acknowledgments section contains brief biographies of the curriculum developers and the NJC’s course architects.

If judges have any questions, they may contact the registrar’s office at (800) 255-8343 or at registrar@judges.org. The NJC truly appreciates the support of the State Justice Institute and the Pillars of Justice. Without that funding, the NJC’s staff and faculty would not have been able to build this course.



Traffic Issues for Judges and Adjudicators: A Self-Study Web Course

Traffic court cases routinely involve issues that are technologically complex and involve critical constitutional issues of search and seizure, confession admissibility, and the law of arrest. This is particularly true with respect to impaired driving cases. The judges who handle these cases are routinely confronted with constitutional issues including those involving searches, seizures and arrests, as well as the admissibility of statements, admissions, and physical evidence. Even so-called "simple drunk driving" cases routinely involve medical and technologically sophisticated evidentiary issues such as retrograde extrapolation, blood alcohol pharmacology, blood/breath partition ratios, infrared spectrometry, horizontal gaze nystagmus, passive alcohol sensors, and the admissibility of drug recognition expert testimony. The Traffic Issues for Judges and Adjudicators self-study course addresses these issues and many others. It was developed for both new and more experienced traffic judges and adjudicators who would like a refresher on traffic issues. The NJC, with funding from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, developed the web-based program. The program is offered free of charge but prospective participants must register. The self-study course contains five modules on the following topics: Fourth and Fifth Amendments, DUI, special populations, unlicensed and uninsured drivers, and commercial driver's licensing laws. The modules provide up-to-date information on each topic and provide learners with quizzes to gauge how well they learned the content. To complete the program and take the final exam only takes eight to ten hours. Participants have 30 days in which to complete the program. Once the learners pass the final exam, they will receive certificates of completion. To register for this invaluable course for new traffic judges, please complete NJC’s course registration form. For questions about the course, contact Irene Q. Hart at 800-255-8343 or ihart@judges.org.


DWI Court Enhancement: A Self-Study Web Course

This online self-study Web course takes the new or seasoned DWI Court professional through basic DWI Court information. The student will become acquainted with the Guiding Principles for DWI Courts, DWI Court target population, case management techniques such as clinical assessment, treatment, community supervision and many more elements directly related to their day-to-day court activities. Issues addressed include the evaluation and sustainability of the Court’s community partnerships. This online course offers not only basic information, but a wealth of resources. The course is sponsored by the National Drug Court Institute and The National Judicial College with funding through the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. To register for this invaluable course for new traffic judges, please complete NJC’s course registration form. Participants have 60 days to complete the online study modules, which take approximately 16 hours to complete. A Certificate of Completion issued by NJC/NDCI is available for those participants who successfully complete a final online assessment. For more information contact David Wallace at the National Center for DWI Courts at (703) 575-9400, ext. 32 or dwallace@nadcp.org or Irene Q. Hart at The National Judicial College at (775) 784-6747 or ihart@judges.org.


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