Nevada’s First Court of Appeals Judges Seek NJC Experiences

Just weeks after being sworn in as justices in Nevada’s newly created Court of Appeals, Chief Judge Michael Gibbons, Judge Jerome Tao and Judge Abbi Silver enrolled in two courses at The National Judicial College for professional development.

The courses involved building their overall judicial skill sets and—an integral component of those skills—judicial writing.

“Writing is at the heart of the lived reality of appellate judges. Being clear about the law as it’s applied to the facts is a critical component of writing a judicial opinion, and NJC’s judicial writing instructors can assist,” said Katheryn Yetter, Academic Director at the NJC. “Appellate opinions live on as a body of law beyond simply ‘who won’ in the most immediate sense.”

The goal of the Judicial Writing course is to achieve a style that is simple and understandable to those who read judicial documents. Judges learn the basic rules of English composition as they apply it to legal writing.

“Writing at an appeals level has to be fine-tuned, so when the public and anyone else reading the document will be able to understand what we are trying to convey,” said Judge Silver.

The Judicial Writing course was held April 27-30 at the NJC in Reno. The three judges also attended the Essential Skills for Appellate Judges in San Diego, CA in March. In this course, they learned how to identify the best methods for accomplishing tasks with less stress and greater confidence.

“The courses at the NJC are helpful for me, since there were no judges to guide us on the rules and procedure for the Court of Appeals,” said Judge Tao.

“While in the District Court, most of the decisions were done verbally, where as in the Court of Appeals all the communication is done in writing,” said Judge Gibbons. “We now have the time to think about what we want to say and are learning a more effective way to communicate it through judicial writing skills.”

Nevada voters approved the creation of the Court of Appeals in November. Gov. Brian Sandoval made the appointments. Judges Gibbons, Tao and Silver were sworn in on Jan. 5. Please visit the NJC website where 2015 course information is available at https://www.judges.org/courses/ .


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