My space is not my own. Articles that speak to me are kept close to remind me of my vision and my professional focus. My desk, seemingly large, has become ever so crowded by these professional reminders of what, I feel, are important or timely. On the plus side, these items prompt me daily to stay the course. In 2009, I came across an article about education and visioning for the future of the Courts; this has been my Codex ever since. As so pointedly stated in the article, Courts as a Learning Organization: Towards a Unifying Vision, “A learning organization is intended to be a catalyst for continual change.” That became my vision, my proposed unified vision.
Margaret R. Allen of the National Center for State Courts was announced as the 2019 Karen Thorson Award winner at NASJE’s Annual Conference in October in Denver. The Thorson award goes to a NASJE member who has made a significant contribution to both NASJE and judicial branch education nationally and is NASJE’s highest recognition of excellence and contributions to the field of judicial branch education. The award’s eponym, Ms. Karen Thorson, was the first recipient in 2012.
At the recent 2018 NASJE Annual Conference in Austin, Judge Edward Spillane delivered a session on the humanity of litigants. Judge Spillane is the Presiding Judge for the College Station Municipal Court in Texas. He started his session by explaining that change in a court’s treatment of litigant too often occurs as a result of an unexpected, often catastrophic, series of events such as those in Ferguson, Missouri.
The final morning of the NASJE conference in Charleston, South Carolina began with the choice of one of three different breakout sessions. I chose to attend Facilitating 101 presented by Stephanie Hemmert of the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, DC. She began the session by drawing input from many in the audience, who shared various reasons why they wanted to facilitate classes, discussions and meetings. She then went on to explain that our purpose for the class was to practice our facilitating skills with the whole group.
This expanding universe of scientific knowledge has engendered many discussions about the perceived need to increase the amount of science based education judges receive. Some argue that judges should be educated like scientists. The problem intrinsic this idea is that judges are specialists in the law, and generalists in everything else. Moreover, the vast majority of judges turned away from a scientific education, at least by the time they were in college and certainly by the time they were in law school. Law school teaches a different manner of seeking the truth than the scientific method.