13. Judicial Training & Education - Status, Needs, Organization & Strategies


13.3.1 The role of a judge is by and large determined by the nature and variety of his functions. The conventional functions are assuming new dimensions with the expansion and diversification of judicial assignments and changes in the expectations of society. Technological changes do also impact on judicial functions. Thus, on the eve of the third millenium, the role of a judge in the secular, socialist, democratic, republic of India in which one-sixth of the human race inhabit is likely to assume changes of far-reaching significance and complexity not totally comprehensible at present. The perception of justice itself is changing in contemporary times. There are a number of myths and mysticisms around the office of judgeship, perhaps deliberately developed over the centuries, which are increasingly being questioned on grounds of relevance, utility and legal benefits. Privileges and immunities of judges are being re-examined in terms of relationship to independence and accountability.

13.3.2 Reflecting on the role of the judge, The Hon. Judge Sandra E. Oxner, President of the Commonwealth Magistrates' and Judges' Association wrote :

"The all powerful and righteous judge became exposed by the spotlight of contemporary media scrutiny as a human being subject to all human frailties.

"The general public disillusionment with official office holders coupled with the lingering respect for the judiciary from a time when the judge and her behaviour were protected from public scrutiny combine to create an expectation of a very high standard of judicial conduct in and out of court. While the expectation is not misplaced, the burden it places on a judge is such that a support system of advice and collegiality must be in place to allow the judge to live up to these expectations and not inadvertently bring the administration of justice into disrepute. The establishment of ethical standards of conduct and collegial discussions of specific problems will assist the judge in ordering her affairs and conduct in such a way as to maintain the public trust and better withstand the searing light of media scrutiny...

"It is important that lines of communication are open between the media and the judiciary.. This analysis of the role of a judge points up the need for judicial support through education in the following various fields; the principle and practice of the independence of the judiciary; accountability to the public; judicial ethics and conduct; sensitivity training in contemporary social issues; gender, aboriginal, ethnic, and other disadvantaged groups sensitivity training; and Media-Bench relations". (Report of the Tenth Commonwealth Magistrates' and Judges' Conference, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, August 1994, p.137).

Socialisation of a New Judge :

13.3.3 The expectations, perceptions and dilemmas of the judge's role contribute to the individual's transition from lawyer to judge. This transition takes months or years to complete. It is a major change in which the new judge has to keep distance from lawyer friends developed over years of law practice and a network of judicial colleagues has to be painstakingly evolved. The new role substantially changes the perspective from which one views the trial, the law, the profession, justice in society and dynamics of rule of law.

13.3.4 "The Judge's Book" a valuable handbook prepared by the National Judicial College and the American Bar Association and widely circulated among judges in U.S.A. and outside, quotes a study of the socialisation process to describe the transition in the role of a new judge. This study finds that "there are four steps to the socialisation of a judge and that moving through all the steps takes at least fifteen years of judicial service. The first of these steps, Professional Socialisation, occurs in the period before a person becomes a judge, and includes law school, legal practice experiences, and other career-related experiences. The second step, Initiation and Resolution, includes the first five years on the bench. During this period the judge undergoes an initial adjustment and self-concept change in trying to define his or her role as a judge. Towards the end of this stage there is a resolution of role conflicts, and a transition to the decision to remain on the bench. The third step, Establishment, covers years six through fifteen on the bench. During this stage the role of the judge changes from that of altruist and legalist to guardian of the law, as another role definition and resolution of conflict occurs within the judge. The final step, Commitment, begins when the judge has served on the bench 15 or more years. During this final stage, there is an increased commitment to the bench, marked by a satisfaction with judicial life. The new judge would do well to consider these findings and to be thereby forewarned of what lies ahead". (Alpert, Atkins and Ziller, "Becoming a Judge : The Transition from Advocate to Arbiter" 62 Judicature 325 (1979) quoted in The Judge's Book, Second Edition, The National Judicial College, Nevada, Page 9).

Qualities of a Judge :

13.3.5 The essential qualities of a good judge are listed in the Judge's Book as follows:

(a) Graciousness : A trial judge should cultivate the ability to be gracious and to listen attentively to the parties and their cases. A good hearing is soothing to the soul. So the judge should make it a point to show interest in every case, no matter how unimportant it seems to be.

(b) Moral Courage : A judge should not expect to be popular. He should develop the courage to do justice whatever the consequences.

(c) Reputation for Fairness : This is something one can develop only by actually being fair and giving such an impression to the people concerned. How a judge conducts his or her private life as well as the judge's manner in the courtroom can give the appearance of unfairness even in a judge who is, in fact, fair.

(d) Mercy : A good judge will have the mercy to apply when appropriate.

(e) Patience : It may seem to be a waste of time to listen to extensive arguments on a point on which the judge has made up his or her mind. But judges owe it to the lawyers to listen to their arguments. One object of the adversary system is to afford an opportunity to correct premature judgments which all human minds are prone to form ... There is no more sorry spectacle than a trial judge throwing his weight around. A judge should be dignified and firm but should not be mean.

The confident and enlightened judge frames commands in the form of requests, makes them in a pleasant way, and is respected. The insecure judge shouts orders, which are obeyed but without respect.

(f) Ability to Communicate : A trial judge is a teacher who must learn to transform legal phrases into plain English that can be understood by lay people without jeopardising its legal soundness.

(g) Decisiveness : A judge who does not possess decisiveness should acquire it. Thoughtful consideration is essential, but indecisiveness is inconsistent with judicial responsibility. And having decided, the judge should announce the decision with a show of confidence that it is right.

(h) Honesty and Integrity : These are qualities essential for every gentleman and more so for a person occupying the office of judge. In judges these qualities should be transparent and unquestionable.

13.3.6 The above list is not exhaustive of the attributes of a good trial judge. They illustrate the complex role of a judge which requires mental and behavioural abilities capable of influencing the attitudes of a variety of actors in the court room. In a plural society with institutionalised social inequalities based on gender, religion, language, race and caste, the role of the judge becomes all the more difficult and challenging. This is where the Constitutional philosophy should invariably inform and illuminate the thought and action of every judge particularly operating at the grassroot level.

Judge of the Future

13.3.7 The Judge's Book published by the American National Judicial College contains a chapter on "The Judge of the Future" which succinctly projects the emerging features which will be reflected in the judges of the future. A few excerpts from Chapter 21 of the book are given below :

"Although speculations about the judge of the future bring visions of robotic truth-assessing machines, law dispensing computers, and chemical-test-determined dispositions, human beings, rather than mechanical marvels, will continue to exercise the fine art of judgment for any foreseeable future".

13.3.8 The most visible recent change in the judiciary has been the growing diversity of judges themselves. A look at the law schools of today indicate the demographics of the bench of tomorrow. A growing number of women will occupy judicial offices particularly in trial courts. So also the Dalits, more Backward Classes and minorities who have had historically no representation in the judiciary. Reflecting the make up of the legal profession, the bench will become younger, demographically diverse and less experienced which will make judicial education and training critical factors in future.

13.3.9 Technology is changing the role of the judge. Innovations are allowing traditional tasks to be done more efficiently. Where once the judge heard all aspects of a case, new procedures such as Alternate Dispute Resolution (and Lok Adalats) are helping judges to deal with increased caseloads. Computers, adaptations of sound recording devices and videotaping facilities will quicken the process of trial, management of dockets and production of transcripts, orders and judgments. Many of these technologies suggest the prospects of limiting a judge's personal staff while increasing the number of technical specialists in the court. The personal computer will enormously increase the research and communication capabilities of the judge.

The level of scholarship of future judges is bound to increase with easy access to internet and related facilities. The judge of the future will have a national and perhaps an international perspective.