Provincial Court judges spend their own time investing in B.C.’s future by teaching and mentoring B.C. students at all levels. Judges around the province visit classrooms, participate in mock trials, and host elementary and secondary school students visiting courthouses in lunchtime question and answer sessions. They participate in school programs organized by the Justice Education Society and by teachers around the province.
At the post-secondary level, since 2007 teams composed of a Provincial Court Judge and a working journalist have visited classes in the province’s university and college journalism schools to discuss the rule of law and the Court’s work. The teams’ differing perspectives have engaged students in animated and contentious debates. The program acquaints participants with practical as well as principled issues to provide a basis for informed reporting on the justice system. The materials prepared for the Journalism Students’ Education Program are available on the Media page of the Court’s website and at Journalism Students Education Programme.
At the post-graduate level, judges work with law students in several ways. In Kamloops, Provincial Court judges welcome law students from Thompson Rivers University participating in a Judge Shadowing Program. Students spend a week shadowing a different Provincial or Supreme Court judge each day, observing their work and discussing it with the judge.
UBC offers a more intensive program. In 2007, the Provincial Court and the UBC Faculty of Law developed a Judicial Externship Program. Unique in Canadian law schools, this program provides an opportunity for third-year students to spend a term working with Provincial Court judges for course credits. Students spend four days a week as interns in a courthouse. On the fifth day they attend a workshop at UBC.
During the term, judges educate students on topics including judicial independence, judgment writing and sentencing as well as other areas of the Court’s work. Students learn by observing trials and other proceedings and by doing legal research for judges.
UBC Law Student Nicole Gilewicz reports that her experience in the program was both meaningful and inspiring. “I absolutely loved the program every day! One of the most meaningful parts for me involved accompanying a judge and court staff on a circuit in Northern BC to observe how the court system functions in remote communities. Although there were many memorable moments, I most enjoyed the opportunities to ask a judge as many questions as I could muster after watching court proceedings on a daily basis. I truly feel that I have gained priceless insight into how justice is administered at the Provincial Court level.”
Students’ report on their experiences with Circuit Courts
The program benefits the Court as well by providing research assistance not otherwise available. For more information on the Externship program, visit the UBC Faculty of Law website.
Judges’ work with students ranges from refereeing mock trials of Peter Rabbit for stealing carrots to discussing controversial issues of policy and law with journalism and law students. Through this work they contribute to understanding of the Canadian justice system and the democratic principles on which it’s based. But judges also say how stimulating and beneficial they find these opportunities to hear the perspectives of students and others in their communities.