State directors face challenges in providing judicial branch education

Budget cuts, distance learning, and managing public perception were just a few of the topics discussed by state directors of judicial branch education during a forum at the 2011 NASJE Annual Conference in Las Vegas.

Directors from Nevada, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Ohio, North Dakota, and the District of Columbia were present.

The impact of budget reductions on judicial branch education was a common theme among the states. Most indicated they had to reduce or eliminate live, fact-to-face training during the past year. Solutions offered included the following:

  • Distance learning—including live and on-demand courses
  • Taking the training to various court locations
  • Using grants to pay for or to supplement live training, including travel cost

The group suggested that one way to keep judicial education budgets intact was to be able to show funding authorities the value of continuing education. The need for evaluations was discussed as well as a request for NASJE to provide some talking points for state directors to use in budget proposals, as well as a resolution, perhaps endorsed by other organizations, stating the value of education. The directors said they need an effective and efficient method of measuring their outcomes. The need for judicial leadership in this area was discussed.

Other challenges facing directors are providing meaningful new judge training as judicial vacancies occur and managing the professional staff in their departments. Getting staff involved in NASJE and keeping them connected to other professionals were suggested as ways to motivate staff and prevent burn out.