Monday, November 7, 2005
Judicial Council Backs MCLE Requirement for State’s Judges
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Judicial Council of California on Friday ordered development of a rule which would require trial court judges and top administrators to complete 10 hours of professional training per year.
The 28-member council, meeting in San Francisco, approved a model for minimum education requirements for superior court judges and court personnel. The draft rule, once developed, must be circulated for public comment before it can be adopted.
In a press release, the council said that if the model requirements are implemented, California would become one of 44 states with broad educational requirements for trial judges.
The model requirements were recommended by the Governing Committee of the Center for Judicial Education and Research.
Under the model approved by the council, trial court judges and top court administrators would have to undergo 30 hours of continuing education in a three-year cycle. Specialized training for would be required for certain judicial officers and court personnel, including specific content-based training for newly-appointed judges, for judges who become presiding or supervising judges, for judges who change assignments, for new court executive officers, for new court managers and supervisors, and for other new court personnel.
In their report to the council, San Joaquin Superior Court Judge George J. Abdallah, who chairs the CJER Governing Committee, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Fumiko H. Wasserman, who serves as its vice-chair, and CJER Education Division Director Karen M. Thorson declared:
“In a postmodern society with a constantly changing body of law, maintaining and improving the professional competency of judges and court personnel requires that the judicial branch, in its leadership role in education, take the next evolutionary step by establishing and administering a system of continuing education that includes minimum education requirements.”
The report did not address how compliance with the requirements could be enforced, but commented that “[n]oncompliance information will be provided to the local trial court presiding judge.” Tracking participation would “be the responsibility of the individual judge, commissioner, or referee, who will keep records of participation/attendance for a period of three years past the date of the course and will sign a statement of compliance at the request of the presiding judge,” the report stated.
The Governing Committee report asserted that the Judicial Council has the authority to require education for judges under the rulemaking authority granted to it by Sec. 6(d) of Art. VI of the state Constitution, but added that the committee was making no recommendations regarding enforcement because the issue was “beyond the scope of our responsibility.”
In its press release, the council described the contemplated requirements as broader in scope but incorporating existing judicial and staff educational requirements.
Those requirements, it said, already include:
•The current new judge orientation program;
•The two-week B.E. Witkin Judicial College for new judges and subordinate judicial officers;
•Family law training for judicial officers who are newly assigned to that area;
•Juvenile dependency training for commissioners and referees who are newly assigned to that area; and
•Specific training already provided for child support commissioners, family law facilitators, child support court clerks, child custody mediators and evaluators, and juvenile dependency mediators.
In other action Friday, the Judicial Council:
•Adopted an amendment to Rule 980 of the California Rules of Court, the statewide rule governing the use of cameras in court. The amendment defines photographing, recording, and broadcasting to include new digital technologies and makes them subject to a judicial order permitting their use.
•Adopted new court rules that will prescribe the qualifications and continuing education requirements for private professional guardians and conservators that are appointed by the trial courts effective January 1, 2006.
•Amended a court rule and revised an optional form governing the process by which persons with disabilities may request an accommodation to access a court’s programs, services, or activities. The changes broaden the definition of a “qualified person with a disability” to conform with changes in California law and clarify the procedures for requesting accommodations.
•Adopted new and amended court rules that to ensure that confidentiality is preserved in superior court procedures for receiving, investigating, and resolving complaints about mediators serving in general civil cases, consistent with California’s mediation confidentiality statutes.
•Amended a court rule that provides courts and attorneys with guidance in assessing any conflicting interests among siblings and whether representation by a single attorney is appropriate.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company