No matter what kind of job we have we had to learn how to do it. My first job, at age ten, was mowing our neighbor’s yard. I learned it from my older brother who taught me by putting me behind a mechanical push mower in the heat of an Oklahoma summer. At first the yard looked about as rough as I was treated. However, by sweat and repetition I was eventually able to make our neighbor’s yard look passable and collect my share of the one dollar we made.
On the job training is a time-honored method of teaching one to do a job. It is probably not the best system for learning such jobs as judging. You would not want to seek justice from a judge whose only prior training to be a judge was mowing yards.
Besides OJT, we have school classrooms where we study everything from Shop to Algebra. Such general education might be of some use if a judge’s first case happened to involve a lawsuit over a poorly crafted footstool but otherwise not so much.
Then we might send our future judges to Law Schools where general principles of law and critical analyses are droned into their heads. But such amorphous concepts will not mean much to you if your first day in court is also the judge’s.
So, Jim, I hear you asking, how do we avoid having judges whose only preparation for sending their fellow human beings to jail or taking their children away is mowing yards, sleeping through Algebra or listening to law professors? Here is how.
We actually require our judges to continuously attend classes in judging and, fortunately, these classes are usually taught by experienced judges who have already made the mistakes they try to help new judges avoid. One of those judge schools is the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada. I first attended NJC in 1986 and first served as a member of the NJC faculty more than twenty years ago.
Indiana and almost every other state have their own systems of judicial training and education. The NJC has judges from every state and many foreign countries who attend.
Over the years I have taught and helped teach judges from the U.S.A., Palestine, Ukraine, Russia and several other countries. Currently, along with fellow faculty judges from Mississippi, Colorado, Indiana, Tennessee and Maryland I have been engaged in teaching an Internet course to judges from several states. This allows the faculty judges and the student judges to remain in their courts while still being involved in continuing adult education.
In my opinion, the education new judges, and even experienced judges, receive from such a system of judges teaching judges is better than simply electing or appointing a new judge and hoping for the best.