Local Education Initiative

Innovations in the California Courts - 20 of Years of Great Ideas

One Branch: Local Education Initiatives
One of the highest priorities of the Judicial Council is to maintain a professional judiciary that offers fair and impartial justice to all Californians. Ensuring that judicial officers have access to high-quality continuing education that keeps them current with the law and latest legal procedures is one way to help achieve this goal.

In 2009, the Education Division/Center for Judicial Education and Research (CJER) of the Administrative Office of the Courts introduced a program to partner with courts to provide high-quality judicial education at the local level. Under this Local Education Initiative, courts can host classes for their judicial officers simply by selecting from among the almost 100 courses described in the Judicial Education Course Catalog and contacting CJER to make a request.

Upon receiving a request for a specific class, CJER recruits the faculty, provides written materials for the class, and coordinates between the instructor and the local court. The local court makes arrangements for a classroom, notifies its judicial officers about the course, and registers participants.
Courses available for local delivery are described in the Judicial Education Course Catalog. These courses address substantive areas of law (civil, criminal, family, juvenile, probate, and mental health) as well as access, collaborative courts, computer training, court security, domestic violence, fairness, judicial ethics, and self-represented litigants.
Most of the faculty are judicial officers and are recognized experts in the fields they teach. They have also attended CJER seminars designed to explore the best teaching methods for adult education.

Local courts benefit in several ways from the Local Education Initiative. First, they are able to offer classes by experts on a wide variety of subjects. Courts can even request courses on topics not listed in the catalog. Second, their expenses for the classes are minimal. The AOC pays for the instructors’ travel expenses and provides written materials and, if requested, any necessary audiovisual support. In addition, because the classes are held at local courthouses, judicial officers are not required to spend time and money traveling. Finally, the participants benefit from the give and take of a live presentation.

Feedback from faculty for the more than 75 local courses offered so far has been uniformly positive. Judge Lynn Duryee, who has taught several courses, said, “The great benefit of local instruction is that it allows live presentation for minimal expense. The live course is, in my mind, so much better than self-study or distance learning.”

The state and taxpayers also benefit from this move toward local judicial education. Trial court judges are expected to complete 30 hours of continuing education on a three-year cycle, but bringing instructors to local courts is more cost-effective than holding centralized, statewide programs of instruction. Statewide events will still be held, but they will be scheduled less frequently; local courses will help bridge any educational gaps caused by the reduced statewide program schedule.

Some Course Topics found in the Judicial Education Course Catalog include:

■ Collaborative courts
■ Judicial ethics
■ Criminal, civil, juvenile, family, and probate
■ Court security
■ Domestic violence
■ Self-represented litigants
■ Computer training

“Excellent teacher and wonderfully detailed and complete written materials.”
       — Course participant
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