Conference 2012: Lessons Learned From Teaching Fairness

This breakout session was an opportunity for faculty and participants to share lessons learned from teaching fairness to judicial officers and court staff. Faculty discussed overcoming resistance to fairness topics by acknowledging it, integrating the topic into substantive courses rather than offering it solely as a stand-alone, avoiding listing courses in the agenda as the “Fairness” course, and creating engaging programs that encourage dialogue. For example, having participants complete the online Implicit Association Test (IAT) to identify their own unconscious biases, followed by a discussion of the science behind the instrument, can be informative and engaging.

Making Fairness Relevant
Faculty discussed how new or changing areas of the law can provide an opportunity to, in a practical way, discuss diversity issues and topics. In recent years, attention to the legal questions surrounding domestic partners and same-sex marriage has been one way to discuss fairness, diversity and diverse populations. When offering topics like those, faculty must tailor content to the needs of the audience, use data and demographics, and employ interactive instructional approaches.

While the session could not cover the many issues and approaches to teaching fairness, it reminds us, as judicial educators, that care must be taken when planning, selecting faculty for, and delivering fairness courses. However, the timing of the session could not have been more timely with the approval of a new fairness supplement to the core competency. The supplement, like this course, will help judicial educators think about, plan and offer fairness topics.

Professor Todd Brower, Professor of Law Western State University College of Law, California
Polly Schnaper, Judicial Educators, Judicial Educator, Administrative office of the Courts, Utah
Debra Weinberg, Education Program Manager, Supreme Court of Ohio