January 31, 2018
No matter what part of the state a judge may call home, no matter what personal and professional background he or she may bring to the bench, no matter what type of docket he or she may preside over, one thing is certain: ongoing judicial education is critical to providing the high quality judicial services the people of Illinois need and deserve. Social, cultural and technological change is continuous and never-ending. As our world changes, its problems change. So too do the tools we have at our disposal to help solve those problems. Judges need to keep up. Education helps us do that.
The members of the Illinois judiciary are fortunate to have a broad range of educational opportunities available to them. The Judicial Education Division of the Administrative Office, together with various court-related boards, committees and other entities provides numerous relevant and useful education programs throughout the year. Recent programs, held at locations throughout the state, have addressed such issues as access to justice, effective pretrial practices, bail reform, traffic/DUI prosecution, juvenile justice and methods for enhancing diversity on juries. There have also been the required seminars for all new judges; the advanced judicial academy for more experienced jurists; and the conference for members of the appellate court.
The real foundation of our continuing education program, however, has been the Education Conference – “Ed Con” – held every two years in even-numbered years. This is one of those years. The first session of “Ed Con” 2018 will kick off February 5th. Approximately half our judges will be attending that session. The remainder will be attending an identical second session beginning April 9th.
While attendance at Ed Con is mandatory, the curriculum judges follow there is not (with the exception of a single plenary session held midway through the 5-day program). Flexibility has been a hallmark of the conference. The judges in attendance will find that it remains so this year. Programs have been divided into four basic tracks: civil, criminal, ethics and family. During virtually every “class period” of every day, one or more programs from each of these categories will be available. Participants can pick and choose depending on their personal interests.
Within the basic tracks, the conference’s organizers have done an exceptional job of developing insightful, information-rich and thought-provoking programs. During each of the two sessions (February and April), a total of 107 classes (including 20 that are repeated) will be presented by over 200 faculty members. Participants will have the opportunity to study such things as the nuts and bolts of bench trials, electronic and internet evidence in criminal cases, and deliberative decision making. There will be sessions on poverty’s impact on justice, the challenges posed by “sovereign citizen” litigants, evidence in civil cases, condominium law, procedural fairness, sentencing alternatives, disability rights in the courtroom and motion practice. This list goes on.
I am particularly pleased that the Honorable Rebecca Love Kourlis, retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Colorado, has accepted our invitation to serve as this year’s plenary speaker. Justice Kourlis has been at the forefront of efforts to build awareness of the challenges facing this country’s courts and to develop innovative and practical strategies for ensuring that our legal system is more responsive, transparent, efficient and impartial. Justice Kourlis is committed to the proposition that anyone with a legitimate claim or a legitimate defense should have access to a system of justice that works. During her talk she will discuss the obstacles to that goal and share some of her thoughts on how those obstacles can be overcome. These are serious and pressing concerns for all of us who serve in the judiciary. I am looking forward to hearing what she has to say. I hope you are too.
See you at the Conference.