Judges volunteer to teach professional education programs

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Provincial Court Judges share their knowledge so often with so many groups that it would be impossible to catalogue all their teaching activities. Lawyers appointed as judges have often distinguished themselves by contributing to the education of other lawyers, law students, police officers, social workers, probation officers, university students, and many others interested in the justice system. They continue their commitment to “giving back” and sharing their knowledge of the law after they become judges.

Past eNews articles have described the work of judges with elementary and secondary school classes, and with law students in the UBC Provincial Court externship program and Thompson Rivers University’s Judge Shadowing program. Here’s an account of the recent activities of just a few of the many judges who contribute to the professional education of lawyers and others.

There are special rules of evidence for expert witnesses - witnesses who know more about a subject than the rest of us. Judge Tom Woods has developed expertise in this area of law and is active in the field at home and abroad. Since 2001, he has co-edited and written chapters of a text published by the BC Continuing Legal Education Society (CLE), “Expert Evidence in British Columbia Civil Proceedings”, now in its fourth edition. He has also served as faculty in a Canadian Bar Association (CBA) webinar, “Retaining and Presenting Experts at Trial” in their “Skilled Lawyer Series”. In a different field, he has been a co-editor of CLE’s Provincial Court Small Claims Handbook since 2010.

The U.K. Academy of Experts is a body offering programs to train and certify expert witnesses in the UK, Commonwealth countries and Europe. The Academy emphasizes the duties of independence and impartiality that experts owe to the court when they testify. An Academy member, Judge Woods contributes a column on expert evidence law to its journal, “The Expert and Dispute Resolver”, about three times a year. He also serves on the editorial board of the Commonwealth Judicial Journal, published by the London-based Commonwealth Judges and Magistrates Association, and will be participating in an international panel on expert opinion evidence at a conference in Melbourne hosted by the Commonwealth Lawyers Association.

Provincial Court Judges are sought-after speakers on family law topics. Judge Rose Raven serves as faculty in a family dispute resolution course at Thompson Rivers University and is a frequent participant in CLE and CBA family law courses. For several years, she has volunteered as a member of the editorial board for the B.C. Family Practice Manual published each spring by CLE.

Judge Patricia Bond is another family law expert who frequently shares her knowledge and experience. She recently spoke about Family Law Act protection orders at a BC Trial Lawyers Association (TLA) course on complex issues in family law. This spring she also participated in a CLE Webinar on Trial Preparation, and spoke to the CBA Family Law subsection in Abbotsford on using financial information for support calculations. She rounded off the spring by speaking to paralegals in the Amici Curiae Pro Bono Paralegal Programme on ways to assist self-represented litigants.

Provincial Court Judges are also in demand for their criminal law and practice expertise. Judge James Sutherland has taught Trial Advocacy at the University of British Columbia’s Allard School of Law (UBC) for over a decade. When judges have the opportunity to communicate with people outside a courtroom, as they do in classrooms and other education programs, they not only impart knowledge but they humanize the Court and the justice system. One of Judge Sutherland’s students expressed this secondary benefit well when she wrote in a course evaluation:

"Thank you for all your valuable lessons and pointers, and for being nice. I’m not as scared to appear before judges now knowing that they’re actual humans and not scary!”

Judge Sutherland also speaks to other professional groups – he will serve as faculty for a TLA conference on criminal law this fall.

Judge Adrian Brooks speaks to a class at the University of Victoria Law School every year on the practical and ethical aspects of evidentiary issues that may arise during a trial. This year he also spoke to a UBC Law class about how a lawyer’s preparation for trial can reduce the risk of a wrongful conviction and what, as a trial judge, he watches for to mitigate that risk. With Judges Mrozinski and Rogers he also spoke to lawyers at the Victoria Inns of Court on do’s and don’ts of preparation for a Provincial Court trial.

Other judges around the province act regularly as guest lecturers at university and college classes. For example, Judge Ellen Burdett speaks once or twice a year to a third year UBC Okanagan political science class. Judge Justine Saunders is a regular guest in a University of Vancouver Island (UVI) Resource Management Officer Technology class, as well as in other classes at UVI and the University of Victoria.

Dozens of other Provincial Court judges have similar involvement in university and college courses, continuing education for lawyers, and professional training for other justice system participants. They not only share their knowledge and experience, but find it a stimulating way to remain connected with, and learn from, their communities.

Judge Raven says, “When judges participate in educational activities in the legal community and in public forums it not only helps us keep up with changes in the law but it puts a human face on the justice system. A common reaction we get from students and members of the public is relief at how “normal” judges are when we take our robes off and engage in conversation with them.”