Riley Brandt, University of Calgary
Oct. 18, 2018
UCalgary Law involved in training, education of Alberta judges
Young law students are often in awe of the knowledge their professors hold in vast, complex areas of the law. Professors are required to instruct on the basic tenets of the law, and also to stay current on the most topical and intricate developments that happen daily. Judges in all levels of our court system, who are charged with interpreting the law and deciding cases, must also stay up to date on these new developments and often look to academics for assistance. This is where University of Calgary law students have the unique privilege of learning from professors who are often tapped to assist with the education and training of Alberta’s judiciary.
The National Judicial Institute (NJI) in Canada is responsible for delivering judicial education programs in person and online across the country. The curriculum is meant to encompass substantive law, judicial skills development and social context awareness. The institute, alongside all levels of court in Canada, emphasizes the importance of providing relevant and thoughtful opportunities for judicial education facilitated by psychologists, social workers, law enforcement specialists, and educators.
In Alberta, the Alberta Association of Provincial Court Judges facilitates judicial education opportunities. In addition, the Office of the Chief Judge oversees a Judicial Education Committee and an education manager to ensure judicial education is a top priority.
Professor Lisa Silver explains that UCalgary law professors are sought out for several reasons. Often, a relevant post written on the faculty’s Ablawg sparks an interest in a current issue and professors are asked to provide a perspective on new case law or legal innovation. Other times, faculty members are sought out based on presentations given at conferences, or through word of mouth if judges are looking for training in a specific area.
“Judges like to ask academics to present as they will get the most updated perspective and a balanced one,” explains Silver.
Several professors from the law school have participated in judicial education. In addition to instructing judges at various levels of court in Alberta and British Columbia on sexual assault law, professor Jennifer Koshan is working with the NJI to develop a curriculum for new judges on sexual assault law, myths, and stereotypes.
The executive director of Student Legal Assistance (SLA), professor Michelle Christopher has facilitated educational opportunities for the judges of the Provincial Court of Alberta, and professor Jonnette Watson Hamilton along with Silver has participated in most recent of the twice-yearly educational conferences for the Alberta Association of Provincial Court Judges. Silver presented to the criminal and regional judges on Warrant You Wondering? An Update on Alberta Search Warrant Law and in May 2018, Watson Hamilton presented to civil judges on The Landlord’s Duty to Accommodate.
As Watson Hamilton points out, “Faculty members’ participation in judicial education provides good opportunities for frank and informative exchanges about overlapping interests and about issues at the intersection of faculty research and the cases judges hear and decide.”