What is professional development for judges (and how much is expected from judges)?
Various training sessions are offered to judges throughout their career to ensure that they are continuously learning and enhancing their skills.
These training sessions may take many forms, such as seminars, workshops, informal meetings and mentorship. The programs developed for judges are created in a way to further their knowledge and help them stay current, remain objective and continue to make fair decisions.
Judges are responsible for their own professional development and training sessions vary from judge to judge depending on their background and the work of the court where they sit.
All judges are required to take specific education and training programs, including the New Judges Program and the Judging in Your First Five Years Program, over the first five years of their appointment. These mandatory programs are specifically designed to ensure judges receive training on legal content, skillS development and social issues.
All judges should invest the equivalent of ten days per year in professional development. This includes court-based programming which is mandatory for all judges.
See Program Descriptions for more information on national programs and programs delivered by the individual courts.
What is the role of the Canadian Judicial Council?
The Council is responsible for establishing policies and guidelines regarding the professional development of judges.
The Council is mandated under Part II of the Judges Act to promote efficiency, uniformity, and accountability while improving the quality of judicial service in all Superior Courts of Canada. The Council’s primary role is to review complaints made by the public or the Attorney General about the conduct of federally appointed judges. The Council assesses the actions of judges and makes recommendations. Its role in the professional development of judges is to establish policies and guidelines for judges to follow.
The Council is chaired by the Chief Justice of Canada, the Right Honourable Richard Wagner and is made up of 39 members consisting of chief justices, associate chief justices, and some senior judges.
How are judicial independence and professional development intertwined?
For a judge to be, and equally important to be perceived as, independent and objective, he or she must possess wisdom, sound judgment and experience, qualities that are shaped through professional development.
Judicial independence ensures that judges are free to decide honestly and impartially, in accordance with the law and evidence, without concern or fear of interference, control, or improper influence from anyone.
In keeping with the principle of judicial independence, professional development must also remain under the control and supervision of the judiciary, free from outside influence or interference, including that of other branches of government (i.e. executive and legislative). Participation in professional development will assist judges in better fulfilling their primary obligation, as well as other aspects of their judicial role.
Canadians can be proud that Canada’s well-educated and informed judiciary adhere to the highest standards of conduct in order to preserve public confidence in the administration and delivery of justice and the rule of law.
Who decides which courses judges should attend?
All judges are responsible for their own ongoing professional development to ensure they provide the highest quality judicial services to the public.
The Professional Development Policies and Guidelines for Judges of the Canadian Judicial Council also include requirements for professional development plans and mentoring, if available.
Judges are supported and guided by their Chief Justices. Also, many courts offer their own in-house and intensive training programs to their recently-appointed judges. Courts that decide to improve or develop local programs for recently-appointed judges can work with the NJI to do so.
What is the process for proposing new programs?
The National Judicial Institute (NJI) regularly reviews the scope and extent of programming to identify gaps or needs and other organizations may also identify the need for a new program.
The Judicial Education Committee is composed of Chief Justices and puisne judges who provide advice and guidance on all aspects of judicial training (policies, programs, etc.). The Committee meets to determine based on a set of 12-point evaluation criteria, whether the proposed program should be recommended for approval.
For local programs offered by each court, the Chief Justices of each court are responsible to establish the initial need for an educational program. In many cases, the National Judicial Institute provides assistance in planning and developing the local program of the courts to ensure proper preparation and consideration is given to the educational components of the meeting.
Are there policies that govern the professional development of judges?
The Canadian Judicial Council has had policies on professional development in place for several years.
In order to constantly improve and respond to legitimate expectations for a well-educated judiciary and the needs of judges, the Council, in April 2018, adopted a revised Professional Development Policies and Guidelines. The main goal of these Policies and Guidelines is to establish the expectations and requirements for the professional development of federally-appointed judges in order to ensure the fair and equal delivery of justice in Canada.
What types of courses are offered?
The Canadian Judicial Council ensures that a wide variety of programs are made available to federally-appointed judges.
Programs cover topics such as judicial ethics, criminal law (including sexual assault law), civil law, family law, Indigenous law, judgment writing, managing a courtroom, disability in the courtroom, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, oral judgments, communications skills, remedies and evidence, insolvency, judging in small or remote communities, settlement conferencing, criminal jury charges, etc. Efforts are made to incorporate the social context of decision making into various courses.
As part of the Council’s Professional Development Policies and Guidelines for Judges, all recently-appointed judges, who are within their first five years on the bench are required to take specific education and training programs, including the New Judges Program and Judging in Your First Five Year Program. These programs are specifically designed to ensure recently-appointed judges receive training on legal content, skills development, and social issues.
Specialized judicial training is continuously being developed and enhanced to include the latest in all fields to ensure judges are always up to date on new developments affecting society.
Who develops the content of professional development courses/programs?
Content of the programs offered to federally-appointed judges is developed by various organizations depending on the topic.
The Council must approve the programs intended to be delivered by these various organizations.
In the case of the National Judicial Institute, the development of the content of a program takes place with the participation of judges, lawyers, and academics. Experts from each field provide their expertise and knowledge to develop courses that are factual, accurate and educationally sound.
Who is responsible for the professional development of judges?
The judiciary institutionally is responsible for the professional development of judges and each judge is accountable for his or her own ongoing professional development.
To ensure impartiality in decision making while maintaining the highest professional standards, the judiciary must remain responsible for the professional development of judges.
Individual judges are responsible for their own continuous self-development and learning, subject to the professional development policies prescribed by the Canadian Judicial Council. Self-development contemplates an assessment of what is required for an individual judge to improve their knowledge and skills. Judges should consult with their Chief Justice in developing a professional development plan.
Judges rely on skilled organizations to deliver relevant judicial programs, such as the National Judicial Institute (NJI), which is a world leader and the Council’s main partner in providing education for judges in Canada. The programs delivered by the NJI are developed under the guidance of the Council and include three key elements: education on the most current substantive law in various areas; skills development; and education on social issues. The NJI also plays an important role in assisting courts in developing and delivering their local programs.
The Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada (FJA) provides administrative services to federally-appointed judges.