NJC Chair reflects on his leadership role in The National Judicial College

By William T. (Bill) Robinson III
Chair, Board of Trustees (2016-17), National Judicial College

As chair of the Board of Trustees of the National Judicial College (NJC) for 2016-17, I am privileged and very enthused to have this special leadership opportunity to work closely with my fellow trustees, our President Chad Schmucker, our excellent faculty and experienced staff, to advocate for the importance of providing judicial education to judges across the nation and around the world. We fully embrace the NJC’s philosophy that a better educated judiciary is a key pillar upholding the Rule of Law.

For those of you unfamiliar with the NJC, the National Judicial College was co-founded by the American Bar Association in 1963 and serves as the gold standard for judicial education. Through the NJC, each year new and experienced judges from all 50 states receive extensive educational training from more than 250 teaching faculty comprised of exceptional members of the judiciary, including active and retired judges. Over the years NJC has also educated judges from more than 150 countries. Through the NJC’s extensive curricular offerings, new judges at the outset of their careers on the bench are primed with the knowledge and skills needed to be effective jurists, and experienced judges gain continuing education on contemporary issues facing the judiciary.

Judges worldwide consistently report that after taking NJC courses, they are more knowledgeable and more confident in their overall ability to fulfill their duties as jurists.

Since its inception in 1963, more than 100,000 judges worldwide have received Certificates of Completion from the NJC. In 2015 alone, nearly 7,500 judges and judicial officers enrolled in on-site, online and satellite courses. On-site courses typically serve state and local judges, administrative law judges, court personnel and tribal judges. But the NJC’s impact on judicial education stretches far beyond its on-campus base at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Nearly half of the judges enrolled in NJC programs in 2015 (over 3,500 students) participated in online courses and satellite “Courses Across the Country” programs. The NJC course schedule for 2017 includes 17 satellite courses that will be hosted in all regions of this country, ranging from Napa, California and Seattle, Washington to Bar Harbor, Maine and Big Sky, Montana. For judges short on time or resources, a robust series of online learning opportunities are offered in the form of live and recorded webcasts, online courses and self-study modules.

Any judge willing to enhance him- or herself on the bench with additional judicial knowledge and skill, can find relevant and innovative educational content at the NJC. The College frequently refreshes its course content and regularly develops new courses to address more current issues having increasing impact on courtroom dockets. For instance:

  • In 2012, the NJC developed and launched Human Trafficking: What Judges Need to Know to inform judges that human trafficking can be found in every state in a variety of cases including prostitution, pornography and child abuse. One course objective: Judges should treat individuals in these cases as victims, not criminals. To date, the human trafficking workshop has been offered in more than half of the states in the U.S.
  • In 2015, Drugs in America Today: What Every Judge Needs to Know debuted at the College in Reno and was so well received that the course will be offered annually, with the next session scheduled for Oct. 10-12, 2016 in Las Vegas.
  • In 2017, a new course on Electronically Stored Information will be introduced to help judges address the growing impact of electronic discovery issues.

I am particularly proud of the participation and commitment of judges from my home region of Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, who regularly teach and participate in NJC courses to enhance the judiciary and become better at what they do. Between 2010 and 2015, almost 1,600 judges and judicial personnel in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee enrolled in NJC courses. Additionally, esteemed judges in our region—including Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger of Columbus and Administrative Law Judge Anita Fogle of Columbus—are frequently selected to serve as NJC faculty members. Justice Lanzinger has taught more than 20 courses dating back to 1990, including Ethical Issues in the Law, Decision Making andJudicial Review, and Evidence and Security for ALJs. Judge Fogle has served as a faculty council member for NJC and has taught two dozen administrative law courses since 2002, including Administrative Law: Fair Hearing.

I applaud—and encourage—the thousands of judges who seek continuing education from the NJC every year to continue to sharpen their judicial skills. As long-time believers in the value and importance of continuing education for judges and lawyers alike, I and my fellow trustees on the NJC Board are privileged to serve and represent the National Judicial College, an institution whose sole mission is to improve the administration of justice in courtrooms and communities throughout this nation and abroad. Upward and onward for the National Judicial College and the judges we are dedicated to serve.

This article originally published by the Ohio State Bar Association, July 26, 2016. Reprinted here with permission of Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III, NJC Board of Trustees Chair.

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