Arizona_Supreme_Court_SealI received some interesting news recently from Heather Murphy (she is the Director of Communications for the Arizona Supreme Court and Administrative Office of the Courts). Heather let me know that judicial education—what we all know as COJET—turned 30 this week. (It doesn’t look a day over 20!)

The anniversary was on November 18, to be precise. (And when you’re dealing with continuing education, you want to be precise!)

When it comes to lawyer education—MCLE—I have heard an earful over the years. But many attorneys may be unaware of all the continuing ed that judicial officers must obtain.

I am looking for stories of court innovation that we can tell in 2014 as part of our NextLaw initiative, and I’m expecting some of those stories may come from our own Supreme Court. I appreciate this story, which is a jump-start on that effort.

Here is a great retelling of the events that led up to this year’s anniversary, as told by the Court itself:

Arizona Supreme Court building

Arizona Supreme Court

 

On this date in 1983, the Arizona Supreme Court established the Council on Judicial Education and Training (COJET). The purpose was to establish educational policies and standards for the court system. Training through COJET covers everything from changes in law, best practices, innovations in court settings, and current issues or topics affecting the administration of justice in our communities.

Now 30 years later, COJET courses have evolved from classroom or seminar-based learning to courses delivered through the internet, via webinars and other technology-based delivery methods. Technology has made it possible to deliver training to the entire state judiciary on a cost-effective basis.

Every full-time employee of the court system is responsible for adhering to a 16-credit hour COJET training requirement to ensure that the staff receives timely, relevant continuing education to enhance and support their role in the courts. People working fewer than 40 hours per week also have training requirements varying from four to 12 hours.

“COJET training is required for everyone, from human resources and support staff to detention and probation officers, managers, clerks and administrators,” said Jeff Schrade, Education Services Director at the Arizona Supreme Court. “For the 2012 calendar year, we delivered training to 8,822 employees statewide.”

For the typical employee, training can be a combination of self-study courses, seminars or conferences. At least six of the credit hours must be facilitated learning in a workshop, seminar, conference, educational group broadcast or college course that meets certain accreditation requirements.

Over the past 30 years, the Council has become the Committee on Judicial Education and Training and the scope has widened to include monitoring the quality of educational programs, recommending changes in policies and standards and approving guidelines for training programs.

Schrade outlined some of his group’s milestones over the last 30 years:

  • The first COJET training videos were produced in 1988.
  • In 1991, the topic of domestic violence was selected for the first statewide broadcast training, which was delivered to five remote sites.
  • An all-day broadcast on victims’ rights followed in 1992.
  • The first national broadcast program took place in 1993 on the topic of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • The Probation Officer Certification Academy was launched in 1995.
  • In 1998, Arizona became one of a small number of states authorized to deliver locally the accredited programs normally offered at the National Center for State Courts in Virginia.
  • The Judicial Education Center opened in 2001, providing a central location with multiple classroom configurations for large or small training events.
  • The Arizona Supreme Court began delivering courses via webcast in 2009.
  • In 2012, training requirements were temporarily pared back to 12 hours for non-judge court staff due to budget constraints at the state, county and municipal court levels.
  • In 2013, the 16-hour COJET requirement for full-time staff was restored.
  • The Presiding Judges Leadership Academy was also launched in 2013.

“The secret to our success is that we deliver highly relevant training on issues that court staff encounter on a regular basis but we also focus on emerging issues and trends,” Schrade explained. “We have a great committee that helps us plan training classes, study and respond to evaluations and develop new curriculum as needed.”

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