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Ohio Hosts International Conference to Enhance Judicial Education

Leaders in judicial education from across the U.S. and the Caribbean gathered in Ohio to learn about new ideas and services to enhance the court experience for the people they serve.

More than 100 people from the National Association for State Judicial Educators (NASJE) spent three days in Columbus for its annual conference. The organization’s first event hosted in Ohio had various educational formats with much of that programming led by the Supreme Court of Ohio Judicial College. Participants took part in presentations and roundtable discussions and experienced the work of Ohio municipal and domestic relations courts during a visit to the Franklin County Government Center.

“It is critical that judges and court personnel stay current on the ever-changing world we have and how that impacts the courts. There are changing laws and changing skills needed to be successful and serve the public,” said Christy Tull, the Judicial College director.

For judges, magistrates, and court personnel, continuous development ensures fair treatment for people who come to court. Judicial education conferences like this one allow participants to share ideas and best practices so they can identify areas of improvement for state and local courts. Some topics from the conference included how to make the court experience more inclusive through simpler language and being more aware about trauma when people enter their buildings.

“Many times, you’re dealing with someone who's vulnerable and it is important to remain empathetic to that person’s whole situation,” said High Court Judge Christopher Birch from the Supreme Court of Barbados.

He and the other attendees took part in exercises to better demonstrate the difficult circumstances the many people face while attempting to navigate the complex court system. The scenario Judge Birch attended was an escalating domestic violence situation where he was forced to make choices between less-than-ideal options with little money and limited support. Unable to afford housing on his own, he first opted for a shelter with his children, then chose to be homeless when the shelter closed, rather than return to an increasingly dangerous home.

“It's a solitary reminder that you can move from a position of safety to insecurity and danger in a very short space of time,” said Judge Birch. “The exercise reinforced the need to keep people at the center of the work.”

The assignment ended with a group discussion where people shared observations and changes they might propose for their own court systems based on what they learned during the experience. Some recommendations included making sure security personnel, usually the first staff court visitors encounter, have trauma awareness training, and creating secure, welcoming spaces in court offices.

“We share these experiences and resources because we want to make sure that when people enter our court buildings that they have the support needed to help with their issues,” said Tull.