Keith R. Fisher


Introductory judicial education (IJE) is an avenue for improving both appointive and elective systems of judicial selection. The impetus for considering this topic can be traced back to lingering unease with judicial selection and the ongoing (though now somewhat stagnant) debate over merit selection. Moreover, changes in the nature of law practice and the judicial role over the past several decades have rendered the gap between those two activities increasingly large. Moreover, surveys of minority communities have consistently demonstrated a far lower degree of confidence in the impartiality and fairness of our nation’s judges. IJE is an effort to maximize the chances that judicial selection, by any process, will result in a judiciary composed of competent individuals who are not only philosophically attuned to the imperatives of fairness and impartiality (both in appearance and in fact) but capable of performing at a higher level of competence and efficiency as a result of having received specialized training. This article discusses the case for, and potential content of, a program of education for those who aspire to judicial office. The program envisioned would be completely voluntary and would not by any means displace existing selection mechanisms. Instead, it would serve to enhance them by making available to judicial aspirants educational programs designed to produce judicial candidates who are better prepared for the role and who can make a more informed decision regarding whether a judicial career is appropriate for them. Furthermore, such training will advance the cause of professionalism by improving the overall quality of the pool of people seeking election or appointment to the bench. Individual state bar associations will be able to take leading roles in fashioning the optimal format and curriculum of such a program and fostering the ideals of fair and impartial courts that have long been the hallmark of our legal system.