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Judges and Judiciary

Feb. 11, 2021

California judges announce an award for judicial outreach programs

The California Judges Association has established an Award that will be given every three years to an exceptional judicial outreach program. The new Award will be presented this year at CJA’s Annual Meeting scheduled for September 25. The CJA Foundation will donate a cash contribution to the Award-winning program.

Stanley Mosk Courthouse

Richard L. Fruin Jr.

Judge, Los Angeles County Superior Court

Independent calendar

Community Court

Thomas A. Delaney

Judge, Orange County Superior Court

Felonies

Thomas A. Delaney is a judge of the Orange County Superior Court.

Leonard Marquez

Judge, Contra Costa County Superior Court

The California Judges Association has established an Award that will be given every three years to an exceptional judicial outreach program. The new Award will be presented this year at CJA’s Annual Meeting scheduled for September 25. The CJA Foundation will donate a cash contribution to the Award-winning program.

Judicial Outreach are organized efforts by courts to educate the public about the work of judges and their institutional role in our government. The new Award will spotlight successful outreach programs that can be adopted by other courts and will encourage more bench officers to participate in judicial outreach programs.

CJA is soliciting applications for the CJA Judicial Outreach Award from program leaders and from the Superior Court presiding judges throughout California. The application includes an online Survey. The Survey format will ensure comparability in the program information. Among the factors to be considered in the Award competition are: the subject matter presented in the outreach program; the number of times the program has been presented; and, for each presentation, the measurements used to evaluate the program’s success with that audience. “Our purpose is to show that a successful program can be replicated in other courts,” said Judge Diane Ritchie (Ret.), a member of the CJA committee. “We will also be obtaining any program materials that were used in the outreach programs to make them available to other courts.”

A copy of the application can be obtained or reviewed on line at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/outreachaward21.

CJA, by presenting the new Award, will also recognize that the global pandemic has forced courts to transition to new educational formats. Now rather than making presentations to live audiences, judicial officers are presenting educational programs over virtual platforms.

The courts’ adoption of online videoconferencing during the pandemic has revealed ways to expand judicial outreach programs. Although judicial officers are effective speakers to live audiences, judicial time is a limited resource. By using remote technologies, judicial officers will be able to reach more audiences and do so virtually from their chambers.

One program that has managed the transition to an online platform is “Judges in the Classroom” program. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, together with her Power of Democracy Steering Committee, launched the “Judges in the Classroom” in 2018. The program provides an online means for teachers to connect with judges to arrange for the judge to make a presentation in the teacher’s classroom. The program provides online materials so that the judge and teacher jointly can teach a grade-level curriculum about the justice system. The materials include scenarios that the judge and teacher can turn into mock trials so that the students can better understand the judicial process.

The pandemic has ended not only the judges visits to classrooms but, for some communities, in-school classes altogether. However, judges in San Diego and Los Angeles Counties, together with the participating teachers, have been piloting the “Judges in the Classroom” program with the students participating remotely from their homes with Zoom technology. The teachers who have made the transition have remained enthusiastic. A teacher in San Diego said:

“I believe the [video] meeting that the Judge and I had prior to the lesson was extremely valuable… Students were thoroughly engaged, particularly when they were placed in breakout rooms to discuss the different scenarios. The length of time, approximately 45 minutes, was perfect for a virtual presentation with fifth graders.”

In San Diego there have been virtual presentations at 32 schools in this academic year involving hundreds of participating students. Twelve judges have participated in virtual programs. In Los Angeles there have been 17 virtual presentations to students in grade levels third grade through high school.

In Los Angeles, after Judge Nancy Ramirez visited her junior high classroom, teacher Kellie Kontis reported:

“My students loved this presentation, they are still talking about it two weeks later. We would love for any future opportunities.”

“Judges in the Classroom” offers to schools a judicial resource that complies with state education standards. A virtual format will provide great efficiencies by eliminating a judge’s travel time to schools, and, thus, help judges to find time to make more classroom presentations.

The San Diego Superior Court has also created a virtual courthouse tour to introduce students to the judge’s courtroom. A judicial officer, operating a two-way camera in a Microsoft tablet, greets the teacher and students appearing through Zoom, escorts them inside the courthouse and into the judge’s courtroom, where the judge and teacher present the lesson plan.

These are the types of innovative programs that the CJA hopes to recognize and popularize with its new Outreach Award.

The California Judges Association represents judges, commissioners and referees in California’s 58 counties and justices of the appellate courts. It has over 2,200 active members. CJA is dedicated to promoting excellence in judging through education, ethics, inclusivity, outreach and advocacy. 

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