Projects and Initiatives

The Berkeley Judicial Institute (“BJI”) is in the process of convening focus groups of stakeholders, including judges, lawyers, and scholars drawn from a range of disciplines, to address three pressing issues:

  • Law Clerk Hiring: BJI will examine why despite good faith efforts there is a persistent lack of diversity in law clerk hiring in the federal courts, particularly at the appellate level, and will engage in dialogue with judges, law school clerkship advisors and researchers on how to improve outcomes in this area. It also will aim to address factors that may narrow the pool of competitive applicants, such as inadequate mentorship or potential applicants not being sufficiently aware of the range of opportunities available to them.
  • Social Context and Unconscious Assumptions: BJI will study the effectiveness of current efforts to engage judges in thinking about how their life experience can play a role in their decision-making, and will seek to develop pedagogy that respects judges’ commitment to fairness while at the same time encouraging judges to consider ways to broaden their perspective.
  • Creating and Maintaining a Respectful Judicial Workplace: BJI will consider the imbalance of power within the judicial workplace and its effect on working relationships, and develop best practices to create and sustain appropriate and healthy workplace environments for judges, law clerks, and court staff.

The Institute’s future work will include a broad range of other potential initiatives, for example:

Addressing Judicial Conduct and Public Criticism: BJI will assist judicial governance and educational entities in dealing with the range of personal issues that may arise over the arc of jurists’ careers. It will articulate best practices for identifying and dealing with diminished or diminishing mental capacity, developing mentoring programs to assist judges with remediable behavioral problems, strengthening professional collegiality, creating and sustaining appropriate workplace environments, and counseling and otherwise supporting courts and individual judges who have been subjected to public criticism for making legally proper orders in controversial cases.

Educational Programs and Resources for the Judiciary: Building on ongoing projects at Berkeley Law, such as the intellectual property programs and resources described above, BJI will select other salient areas, such as criminal law, immigration law, and anti-corruption law, for advanced judicial education and research. It will identify academic, practitioner, and judicial expert teams to develop in-person seminars, webinars, tutorials, case management guides, and other resources that will enable judges, law clerks, and practitioners to deal effectively with case management and litigation challenges. BJI also will seek to address the personal challenges of judging by educating jurists about communication skills, stress management and self- care, emotion regulation, and the effects of unconscious assumptions on procedural fairness. These programs and publications will complement and expand upon those already offered by the FJC, the National Center for State Courts, and similar organizations.

Academic Research: BJI will work with Berkeley Law scholars, as well as scholars and practitioners from across the nation and the world, to identify research projects focused on managing scarce judicial resources, improving comprehension of the law and complex subject matter by judges and juries, addressing cultural and psychological dynamics that may affect decision-making, preserving and promoting judicial independence, and related areas. BJI will support these efforts through research grants and dissemination of research.

Conferences, Working Groups, and Webinars: BJI will convene events in appropriate locations—Berkeley, Washington, D.C., other locales, and online—to promote the exchange of ideas about improving the administration of justice, judicial integrity, and judicial independence.

Accountability as a Cornerstone of Independence: Promoting effective enforcement of codes of conduct and other ethical principles consistent with judicial independence and integrity.

Case Management as Project Management: Using problem-solving skills and business solutions to manage litigation.

Judicial Officer Wellness and Self-Care: Developing practices that will assist judges in dealing with stress, isolation and the personal impacts of difficult cases and decisions.

The Challenges of Complexity: Identifying effective and ethical ways of managing and making sound decisions in cases involving complex or technical subject matter.

Beyond Formal Collegiality: Developing personal and interpersonal skills that can help judicial leaders build supportive collegial and workplace environments and respond appropriately to troubled or impaired colleagues.

Civil Discourse and Principled Disagreement: Modeling and practicing listening and communication skills that promote mutual understanding and honest debate within and outside the judicial context.

High-Profile Cases and Judicial Independence: Identifying useful approaches for dealing with the media, public opinion and one’s own responses to being in the limelight.

The Psychology of Litigation: Understanding and responding to unstated motivations for the litigation behavior of parties and counsel.

Social Cognition and Decision Making: Developing effective approaches for recognizing and accounting for the limitations of one’s own perspective.

Procedural Fairness and Impaired Litigants: Learning skills for managing cases involving litigants with mental health issues.

Historical Perspectives on Judicial Independence: Identifying and exploring examples of judicial courage and acquiescence.