As I reflect upon the past and present years in my role as NASJE’s President, I think of the adage, “we may all be in the same storm, but we do not all have the same boat.” This may be a novel concept for some, but for us it’s very much how we weather the storms we face daily. Some navigate ocean liners or captain luxury yachts; others row boats or paddle life rafts, while a few of us make dangerous passage in a leaky “Father’s Day,” but despite our differences we somehow all manage to navigate perilous waters. Just when blue skies and smooth sailing seemed to be in our future, COVID-19 created the perfect storm and challenged our navigational skills.
Even as social distancing guidelines change, the reality is that many of us will continue to conduct large portions of our jobs remotely. While you’ve probably already been on many video calls, it’s worth re-evaluating your options and considering adjustments that will cost nothing except a few minutes of your time. A few changes could make it a more pleasant and effective experience for everyone involved.
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.