Clock and American cash. Time is money
Survey suggests judges struggling to find time and money for education this year

By Jenna Delacruz

This month’s one-question survey* of NJC alumni asked, “How is 2024 shaping up for you and your court?”

The survey received 165 answers and showed many judges appear to be struggling to find the time or funding for classes.

The good news is that more than 28 percent of respondents said they had either already registered for a class or had already taken one and were planning on attending another before year’s end. Sixteen percent indicated they couldn’t wait to take a course but hadn’t found the right one yet.

“We are fortunate in Illinois,” wrote Judge Matthew G. Bertani of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court, Subcircuit 4 (Will County). “We have a complete CLE course every two years and many opportunities to supplement the mandatory hours.”

The unsettling news is that about 1 in 5 judges said they had no budget at all for judicial education this year.

“I pay out of pocket. We don’t get any financial support,” wrote one anonymous judge, “So depending on the cost, location and topic, I am not sure if I’ll take another course this year.”

Note: The College offers scholarships for tuition-based courses and provides many online courses for free throughout the year. Judges can apply for scholarships on the NJC website. You can peruse the online catalog for courses offered at no charge.

Chief Justice Bob Mullen of Maine’s Somerset County Superior Court said budget issues in Maine’s judiciary had resulted in not having enough marshals to hold as many jury trials as desired. “Most challenging times I’ve ever had, and I’ve been around since 1996,” he wrote.

One unnamed judge went so far as to say that the lack of funding for judicial education constituted a threat to judicial independence.

Several others said they were facing more time constraints than usual this year.

“Case numbers have not increased, but the number of pro se litigants is up. That takes more time,” wrote one anonymous judge.

Justice of the Peace Brad Cummings of Precinct No. 2 in Hopkins County, Texas, said he simply had little time left for continuing education after his court obligations and his responsibilities in being involved in his community. Cummings is an instructor for the Texas Justice Court Training Center and a member of the Justice of the Peace Education Committee of the Texas Justice of the Peace and Constables Association.

* Each month the College emails an informal, non-scientific one-question survey to its more than 12,000 judicial alumni in the United States and abroad. The results, summarized in the NJC’s Judicial Edge Today, are not intended to be characterized as conclusive research findings. The NJC is a nonpartisan, nonpolitical organization and these monthly polls are designed to engage our alumni in thought-provoking dialogue.

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