Excellence in court performance starts with a court leader who fosters a culture that embraces education, training, and development and who actively leads judicial branch education.


A key function for the court leader is the assurance of excellent court performance by actively leading judicial branch education in their courts. Because judicial branch education helps courts maintain the balance between a continually evolving operational environment and the enduring principles and predictable processes of the court, it cannot be remedial and limited to training alone. Rather educational development must be strategic and involve education, training, and development.

The effective court leader ensures that education, training, and development are recognized as essential and works to build a culture within the court to support it. This means excellence in programming; demonstrable results, both inside and outside the courts; and reliable and consistent funding.


To succeed in fostering a well-educated court, the court leader should strive to ensure that education, training, and development be:

  • Continuous and creative — responding both to traditional legal processes and powerful and changing demands.
  • Inclusive — ensuring that education, training, and development (judicial branch education) happens in all courts and across the judiciary and justice system and is delivered to a target audience that is broader than judges and court staff.
  • Accessible and tailored — requiring that personal and professional growth and skill development opportunities are equally available and readily available and affordable, in time and money; and that they consider the background, experiences and needs of individual judges, staff, and others on whom the courts depend.
  • Well-managed — ensuring that judicial branch education for judges, staff, and others is aligned with the court, its mission, vision, structure, and workflows and that it is built using adult learning and instructional design principles to create a transformative learning experience that will empower judges and court staff to apply their learning in their work environment to achieve positive change.  Content should be based on the needs of the audience, with the ultimate goal of improving the administration of justice and enhancing public trust and confidence. 1
  • Delivered using multiple mechanisms — ensuring that education is interactive and uses blended teaching involving multiple delivery mechanisms including in-person courses and online learning through webcasts and asynchronous learning management systems.
  • Evaluated — making sure that judicial branch education programs evolve in response to the social context, needs for equitable access to development opportunities, and assessments of their success in meeting personal needs and organizational priorities.

Court leaders must actively lead and support judicial branch education in their courts. Education, training and development are not pleasurable diversions from daily routines, training for the sake of training, or a luxury. Court leaders are also critical in ensuring that transfer of education occurs by supporting staff who attend training and then return to the workplace and implement what they learned.

The target audience is diverse in education, experience, professional orientation, age, gender and race. Courts have employees who remain with the court their whole career. They also have employees who come and go quickly. When education and training and human resources are aligned, the court is better able to identify, develop and retain its best employees. When talented staff leave the court, competent replacements take their place or are recruited from the outside. This ensures that the most promising people find job satisfaction and acceptable career paths in specific trial courts and state court systems or in the judicial administration profession generally. While judicial branch education supports succession planning, cross-jurisdictional movement of talented staff benefits all courts through organizational learning across all levels of local, state and federal courts. When appropriate, judges and staff should be educated and trained together, especially at the local level. This demonstrates that the judicial and justice system are interdependent; the issues are systemic.

To contribute to the development of individuals, courts and the court management profession, judicial branch education must:

  • Span the career of individuals, and not be limited to orientation or training to perform specific tasks.
  • Provide for significant interaction among program participants.
  • Include experienced professionals as faculty and in the planning and evaluation process to ensure real and perceived problems are addressed in every program.
  • Utilize adult education and instructional design principles in the planning and delivery of courses in order to effectively convey the knowledge and information, as well as to develop the skills, abilities, and attitudes necessary for judicial officers and court staff to perform at their highest level.
  • Address a wide variety of topics, both practical and theoretical. Through programs that meet these criteria, courts are better able to become and remain learning organizations. Education, training and development sustains enduring principles, maintains and protects daily routines, and stimulates needed change. Those in leadership positions set the vision and take responsibility for the maintenance of the organization and its growth and transformation. Education and development is a critical means to advance the court’s values, vision, and achieve desired goals.  The bottom line is excellent trial court and justice system performance.