The work of the National Judicial Institute.

Author:Kent, Adele

The Right Honourable Beverly McLachlin, P.C., Chief Justice of Canada and the Chair of the Board of Governors of the National Judicial Institute said about judicial education:

As the landscape of judges becomes ever more complex through technological, environmental and socioeconomic changes, judges require a firm dedication to lifelong learning.

The National Judicial Institute (NJI) is a not-for profit organization that provides the majority of continuing education for Canadian judges. NJI is founded on 20 principles of judicial education which provide that the education for judges will be judge-led, in accordance with the principle of judicial independence and based upon good adult education pedagogy.

There are three dimension to the education offered to judges--substantive law, skills and social context. Education in substantive law is the most obvious area of education. Even though Canadian judges have been lawyers for several years before their appointment, the law changes so that regular updates on the law is required. Judicial skills are skills that are unique to the judicial role. These include communicating effectively in the courtroom, analyzing and applying judicial ethical principles and applying legal principles to a specific set of facts. The ability to be skillful in these areas does not come naturally once a lawyer becomes a judge. These skills must be learned and practised. The third dimension is education in the context of the people that the judges serve. The people that come into Canadian courtrooms are unique and bring with them the experiences of their culture, race, economic situation, gender and so on. Judges need to understand the backgrounds of poverty, race, culture, disability and other kinds of disadvantage so that they can judge the cases, not only impartially but fairly and in accordance with our fundamental value of equality.

The NJI employs good adult education pedagogy in designing and delivering its courses. Judges come to the bench and to judicial education with experience. They also are practical. Given the demands of the job, judicial education must be relevant to what the judges are doing in their courtrooms. Judges learn best from other judges. This means that for the most part, education for judges is planned and delivered by judges and is interactive. Judges will often work on hypothetical problems that reflect the kind of issues that they may confront in their courtrooms.

The principles of judicial...

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