Pursuant to section 9(1) of the Judicial Officers Act 1986 the Judicial Commission may organise and supervise an appropriate scheme for the induction, orientation and continuing education and training of judicial officers. The purpose of continuing professional development for judicial officers is to:
- enhance their professional expertise
- facilitate development of their judicial knowledge and skills, and
- promote the pursuit of juristic excellence.
National standard for judicial professional development
A national standard or benchmark for the amount of time that should be available for each member of the Australian judiciary for professional development has been developed by the National Judicial College of Australia and endorsed by the Council of Chief Justices of Australia, chief judges, chief magistrates, the Judicial Conference of Australia, the Association of Australian Magistrates, and judicial education bodies throughout Australia.
The standard, which was reviewed in late 2010, is that each judicial officer should be able to spend at least 5 days each calendar year participating in professional development activities relating to the judicial officer’s responsibilities.
This standard need not be met in each year but can be met on the basis of professional development activities engaged in over a period of 3 years. This standard can be met, in part, by self-directed professional development.
Judicial officers should be released from court duties to enable them to meet this standard. However, judicial officers should commit some private time to meet the standard.
The Commission is sensitive to the need to provide a range of education services to meet the differing needs of each court and individual judicial officers.
The scheme of continuing judicial education should be structured to be of benefit to all judicial officers in each jurisdiction and to address the differing needs of judicial officers throughout the duration of their careers.
Specifically, the education program should apply the Commission’s resources in the most effective delivery of services defined by content (law, procedure, management and administration, and judicial skills) and level of application (induction, update, experience exchange, specialisation and refresher).
These services may include:
- inducting new appointees with comprehensive training and orientation
- updating all judicial officers on important recent changes in law, procedure and practice
- producing bench books for each court, with a process for regular updating
- publishing the Judicial Officers’ Bulletin on a regular basis to inform judicial officers of current law and to promote the consideration of important judicial issues
- promoting the development of an improved scheme for indexing and accessing important judgments
- facilitating continuing judicial education through the exchange of experience and discussion of topical issues, convening meetings and discussion groups, and publishing articles and other papers
- providing refresher services to meet the needs of judicial officers
- providing special education services to meet the needs of isolated judicial officers both in the suburbs and country, and on circuit/rotation; specifically relating to improved access to legal information
- promoting the supply of computer support facilities and supplying appropriate training
- providing an extended range of education services for the assistance of judicial officers, including interdisciplinary and extra-legal courses, where appropriate. The delivery of this scheme should integrate conference, publication and computer support services, in order to facilitate the access to and the use of education services in an effective and convenient manner for judicial officers
- promoting and conducting the research and development of educational practices to enhance the effectiveness of continuing judicial education.
Roles and responsibilities
- The Judicial Commission has ultimate responsibility to define its policy and strategies in relation to the provision of the abovementioned services and to determine the direction and the priority of all activity undertaken in the name of the Commission.
- The Standing Advisory Committee on Judicial Education (which comprises the chairpersons of the Education Committees of each of the State’s courts, or their representatives) has responsibility to advise the Commission on matters of continuing judicial education, to implement Commission policy and strategy and, where appropriate and as requested, to coordinate the activities of the respective Education Committees of each court.
- The Education Committees of each court, subject to the head of jurisdiction, shall have responsibility to develop and manage the program of educational activities conducted by each court.
- The staff of the Commission have the responsibility to advise and assist each of the above bodies, and to act on their instruction to administer and implement the continuing judicial education program.
The Commission will evaluate the effectiveness of its program of continuing judicial education activities in order to:
- ensure that it provides useful assistance and benefits to judicial officers in the performance of judicial duties, and
- provide feedback to presenters to ensure their sessions meet the needs of judicial officers.
Feedback from judicial officers based on specified learning objectives is desirable for each educational activity. Input requested will include:
- whether or not the learning objectives are met
- the program’s usefulness and relevance
- the appropriateness of the content of sessions and materials
- the delivery
- suggest improvements for future programs, and
- suggestions for themes or topics for future activities relevant to judicial officers.