by Lee Ann Barnhardt
Pioneering Trends in Judicial Education was the theme of the 35th Annual NASJE Conference held August 8-11, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas. Elizabeth Evans, chair of the NASJE Education Committee, said judicial branch educators have an obligation to be aware of cutting edge issues and to consider what’s ahead. The conference was designed to help prepare NASJE members to address these issues.
To get the conversation started, the Honorable Wallace Jefferson, Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court and President of the Conference of Chief Justices, welcomed NASJE members to Texas saying it was a great honor to address those entrusted with the important work of educating judges and court staff.
“Courts need judges that possess skills in leadership, administration, law and ethics, and competent staff who are highly knowledgeable,” said Jefferson. “Courts are facing tough times economically and politically and it is even more important that judges and staff acquire new skills for a complex world.”
Jefferson said judicial branch education should be funded as a core function essential for the judicial system to perform. He said continuing education is needed because the court system can become insulated and out of touch with trends and innovations in technology. He stressed the need for judges to understand the law and to understand innovation.
“Judges ought to be in classes receiving education,” he said. “The more education a judge gets, the better is the administration of justice. The public needs to feel assured that those deciding cases are trained and that we are serious about education.”
Jefferson said the importance of continuing education and public confidence in the judiciary was reinforced for him during the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. He said the process focused on the rule of law, the Constitution, and the proper relationship between the branches of government.
“We need more of that in order to dispense justice fairly and intelligently for all citizens,” he said.