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Summer School for Judges

6/12/2015

Judge Gerald A. Williams
North Valley Justice of the Peace

Each year for three days in June, most of Arizona’s courtrooms either are empty or are covered by substitute judges. Why? Arizona trial court and appellate judges are required each year to attend the annual state judicial conference.  It rotates every other year between Phoenix and Tucson and is held the week before the State Bar of Arizona’s annual convention, which many practicing attorneys (and judges) attend.

The annual judicial conference is not the only opportunity for judges to receive continuing education, but it is the only one that is mandatory for them to attend. This year’s presenters include Kimberly Papillon, who will address the topic of implicit bias, and Dr. Isaiah Zimmerman, who will speak about mental well-being for judges.

My favorite presentation each year is from a law school dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, who will provide his annual review of recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Other sessions will address such topics as recent developments in criminal law, evidence, judicial ethics, and victims’ rights.   

Friday’s concluding plenary will feature Suzanne Peterson from Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business. Her topic is how credibility and integrity are foundations for effective leadership.

There are also classes that focus on problems within family relationships. These include:  Managing the Dependency Courtroom (juvenile court); Reasonable Efforts:  Unreasonable Climate (focus is on the court’s responsibility to oversee child protection cases); Treatment of Domestic Violence Offenders; Child Safety Assessment: Safe Removal and Return (when to remove and when to return a child); and The Relationship between the Department of Child Services and the Courts. 

There are also what some might consider fun classes. One class that will analyze Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure and will explore the nature of justice and hidden virtue. There is even a class on Social Media Ethics for judges. 

I will be taking classes on the following topics:  Medical Marijuana and DUIs, Managing Cases Involving Self-Represented Litigants, Limited Jurisdiction Court Updates, Time Standards for Municipal and for Justice Courts, The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children, Evidence, and U.S. Supreme Court Update.  In addition, I will be teaching a class on the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act. 

Just like any profession, judges must remain current in their field.  The conference does help in that area; but perhaps more importantly, it provides an opportunity for judges from around the state to get together, to discuss and to attempt to solve mutual problems.  The state’s annual judicial conference is time well spent.   

Judge Gerald Williams is the Justice of the Peace for the North Valley Justice Court.  His column appears monthly in The Foothills Focus.