The Vermont Judiciary provides a variety of educational programs for new judges, experienced judges, and court staff. This education helps members of the Judiciary enhance their legal knowledge, administrative skills, and ethical standards. It also helps ensure competent and fair administration of justice.
The education of judicial officers takes place in a series of in-state programs and conferences. Divisional meetings, called law days, provide judges the chance to increase skills in special areas of the law and to manage their caseloads more efficiently and fairly. Newly appointed judges receive orientation to ease the change from bar to bench. An annual judicial college focuses on substantive topics like evidence and ethics. Judges receive skills-based training in areas such as technology, judicial writing, and decision-making. They are also updated on new developments in the law and recent appellate decisions.
Judges also attend programs at national venues such as the National Judicial College. They are informed on important topics such as domestic violence, computer forensics, substance abuse, and human trafficking. Funding for their attendance often comes from grants and scholarships. A small budget of general funds covers any additional costs.
Assistant judges sometimes sit in civil and family court matters alongside the superior court judge. In these cases they play the role of fact-finder. They do not interpret or make decisions about the law. Sometimes assistant judges hear cases involving uncontested divorces, small claims, or judicial bureau matters. To preside over these cases, they must first complete a certification course. They must also meet annual mandatory training requirements if they sit in small claims or judicial bureau matters. The training of assistant judges covers a broad variety of topics, including ethics and professionalism, how to preside over cases involving self-represented litigants, and decision-making.
Education improves the ability of court personnel to better serve our communities. New employees receive training through distance learning programs. These programs provide new employees with basic information they need to start their careers with the Vermont Judiciary. The superior courts and the Vermont Judicial Bureau close for a half day each month for training. Managers and staff use this time to learn about operational procedures, new laws and rules, and the use of new technologies.
Court personnel can take courses offered by the Center for Achievement in Public Service (CAPS). CAPS offers classroom and online training courses, management and supervisory programs, and customized training and consultant services. The Judiciary supports employees who want to continue their education by offering tuition reimbursement for courses related to their work.