Undermining the Courts and Media
The National Judicial College first organization to receive the  ABA Justice and Rule of Law Award

CHICAGO – The American Bar Association Judicial Division announced recently that The
National Judicial College will receive the 2024 ABA Justice and Rule of Law Award.

The award recognizes individuals and organizations that make a national impact on the justice system and preserving the rule of law in the categories of judicial independence, justice system reform, or public awareness of the justice system. Past recipients include former U.S. Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor, 10 state court judges and justices, a governor, and a U.S. senator. The NJC is the first organization to win the award.

“We are deeply honored to receive the 2024 ABA Justice and Rule of Law Award,” President Benes Z. Aldana said. “This recognition not only reflects the hard work and dedication of our faculty, staff and trustees but also strengthens our resolve to continue promoting the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, which we regard as our top strategic priority and an essential ingredient of our democracy.” 

In 2022, the College, in partnership with the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, launched a biannual national symposium, “Democracy’s Last Line of Defense,” which brings together judges, lawyers, academics, and the media to examine growing threats to the independence and impartiality of courts in the United States and other democracies, and how to counter the threats. In 2018, as a precursor to “Democracy’s Last Line of Defense,” the NJC presented a day-long program “Undermining the Courts and the Media: The Consequences for American Democracy” at the National Press Club.

The College’s “When Justice Fails: Threats to the Independence of the Judiciary” course examines periods in history, like during the Holocaust, when justice was corrupted. The course asks today’s judges to put themselves in their predecessors’ shoes and think about what they might have done differently to keep the promise of equal justice. The program held an event in Montgomery, Alabama, in 2022 focused on civil rights and, other programs focused on the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

“At the National Judicial College, we believe in the power of education to foster judicial excellence and integrity across the globe,” Rob Hunter, NJC Board of Trustees chair, said. “This award inspires us to continue our mission of equipping judges with the knowledge and skills necessary to ensure fair, independent, and effective judiciaries everywhere.” 

In 2023, the College celebrated its 60th anniversary with the theme Justice for All and sponsored programs highlighting the importance of judicial education as a core component of ensuring fair and equitable courts, on “Being Heard and Ensuring Fairness,” and on “Justice for All – Healing and Restoring Our Community.” In total, the College held six events in six cities, engaging judges, lawyers, and community leaders on the importance of the rule of law.

In recent years, the College has also held a “National Conversation on Racism in the Justice System.” In 2019, the College began Reading & Robes, a community-outreach initiative that involves judges, wearing their robes, reading aloud to younger students from culturally diverse books with themes of justice, fairness and the law.

The Justice and Rule of Law Award will be presented July 31 at the 2024 ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago. ABA President Mary Smith will present the award to President Aldana during a reception at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. The event is free and open to all ABA Annual Meeting registrants.

The National Judicial College was founded in 1963 and is based at the University of Nevada, Reno. It educates judges nationwide, improving the delivery of justice and advancing the rule of law through a process of professional study and collegial dialogue. The College offers an average of 100 courses and programs annually with more than 8,000 judges attending from all 50 states and more than 150 countries.

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