Duke Law announces new Center for Judicial Studies

Jun 6, 2011Latest News

Bolch Judicial Institute | Duke Law School

Duke Law School has established a new Center for Judicial Studies and a master’s degree in judicial studies to address a need for advanced educational opportunities for judges and to support scholarly research on judicial institutions and judicial decision-making.

The center takes advantage of the strength of the Duke Law faculty in judicial studies as well as empirical studies, the study of institutions, international and comparative law, public law, legal strategy, and law and economics. The center will sponsor conferences, symposia, educational programs, and publications on a range of topics relating to judging and the judiciary, and will draw faculty from other schools and departments at Duke University as well as distinguished visiting instructors from other institutions to teach and participate in programs and events.

Developed in close consultation with Duke Law Dean David F. Levi, who served as Chief United States District Judge for the Eastern District of California prior to his appointment as dean in 2007, the center also aims to bring judges and scholars together to strengthen relationships and collaborate on research efforts that will benefit the legal profession as a whole.

A core component of the center is a new master’s program in judicial studies, which will be open to an inaugural class of 10 to 15 judges entering in summer 2012. The program will examine the history, institutions, and processes that shape the judiciary and affect judicial decision-making. Program directors aim to admit several judges from foreign countries to facilitate comparative study of a variety of judicial systems.

“As a former judge who is now part of a great academic law school, I see tremendous benefits in bringing together thoughtful judges and scholars to study judicial institutions in the light of academic research considered through the lens of day to day experience,” said Levi. “Whether it is judicial independence, efficiency, bias, the selection process for judges, the use of judges or juries to decide certain cases, the use of specialized courts, or the attainment of justice ⎯ these are topics of great national and international interest. They ultimately address a society’s confidence in its dispute resolution procedures as well as its commitment to certain values.”

The center will be directed by Jack Knight, a professor of political science and law at Duke University and a renowned expert in the study of judicial institutions, and Mitu Gulati, a professor of law who is widely recognized for his expertise and innovative research on the measurement of judicial behavior.

“This is an especially exciting program, ” said Knight. “This center will facilitate new and important research on the underlying questions about how judges and judicial institutions work in the United States and throughout the world. At the same time we will be seeking creative and innovative ways of employing scholarly research in the practical tasks of enhancing actual judicial practice and fostering the rule of law. The study of judicial behavior and judicial institutions is a dynamic, interdisciplinary field that marries the traditional approaches of legal scholarship with contemporary approaches in the social sciences. Duke has established leadership in these areas both because of the expertise and strength of our faculty and because of Dean Levi’s insight into how the academy and profession can support and learn from one another in ways that benefit all of us.”

Supporting research and education

The center will focus on two core areas of programming: scholarly study of the judiciary and educational programs for judges.

As an incubator for innovative scholarly research on the judiciary, the center will host academic conferences on topics related to judging and judicial institutional design. These programs will build upon the success of earlier Duke Law scholarship and conferences, including a February 2009 Duke Law Journal Symposiumon “Measuring Judges and Justices” and a September 2009 conference on “Evaluating Judging, Judges, and Judicial Institutions,” funded by the National Science Foundation. These conferences brought together scholars and judges to discuss current research on the judiciary and to develop ideas for new research.

The center also will fund graduate fellows and visiting scholars who undertake original research projects with special relevance to the judiciary. A web-based journal is planned to disseminate research on the judiciary, report on conference proceedings, and provide a forum for discussion and comment.

In addition to its scholarly efforts, the center will provide a slate of educational programs for judges. The master’s degree in judicial studies will be the only graduate degree program devoted to the education of judges at a major law school. Offered over two intensive four-to-six week sessions in two summers, the program aims to help judges better understand the institution of the judiciary, judicial systems around the world, and current research on judicial decision-making.

“There is a need and demand for such a program,” Levi said. “It allows judges to contribute to and learn from a growing body of work on judicial institutions, and it permits scholars to benefit from the analysis of their ideas and research by experienced and self-critical judges. Judges who have a better understanding of how judicial systems operate and what the consequences of judicial behavior are will be in position to be better judges and better court administrators.”

Core courses include Empirical Research Methods, Statutory and Constitutional Interpretation, Comparative Courts, Legal and Judicial Institutions, and Judicial Writing; other courses include a judges’ seminar, in which students will hear presentations from judges about unique or challenging cases, and a scholars’ seminar, in which the leading scholars in the field will present research on the judiciary. Students also must complete a thesis project under the guidance of a faculty member. The program’s application for ABA acquiescence is pending.

“This program offers the chance to examine the performance of our judicial institutions and reflect on the judicial decision-making process,” said Judge William H. Pauley III, a United States District Judge in the Southern District of New York and a senior member of the Duke Law Board of Visitors. “As a trial judge in the trenches, I believe this is great way to foster interaction between the judiciary and the scholars who study it.”

For judges whose court dockets may not allow for a full eight weeks in residence, Duke will offer a certificate in judicial studies for four weeks of course participation in the master’s degree program. The first two weeks of the first-year summer curriculum are required. Students may choose whether to attend the remainder of the first summer’s courses or to return for two weeks in the second summer.

Shorter, more targeted continuing education programs also will be offered, including seminars on topics of rapid legal change or areas that require a high degree of specialized knowledge such as international law, human rights law, global financial markets and regulation, and international arbitration. The center also will provide support for students in the master’s program who wish to pursue original research as part of their thesis projects.

“Duke’s new Center for Judicial Studies will play a key role in maintaining the competence, integrity, and independence of judiciaries, which are essential in democratic societies,” said Judge Anthony Scirica of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. A former chief judge for the Third Circuit, he also is a member of the Duke Law Board of Visitors. “The center will contribute to the rule of law worldwide, as judges from many countries will participate in the course of study. By fostering dialogue between judges and law professors, the center will also build important bridges between the judiciary and the academy.”

Please visit the center’s website for a full description of its activities and admissions information for the master of laws program.

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