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Judicial Education Program

Watch: An Introduction to the Judicial Education Program by John Pendergrass


In 1990, the Environmental Law Institute established its Judicial Education Program in response to a challenge by Judge James L. Oakes, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, to close a gap in judges’ knowledge by educating them about environmental law. This challenge was reiterated in August 2002, when Supreme Court judges from more than 50 countries met at the Global Judges Symposium on Sustainable Development and the Role of Law in Johannesburg, South Africa. The judges concluded that “the deficiency in the knowledge, relevant skills and information in regard to environmental law is one of the principal causes that contribute to the lack of effective implementation, development and enforcement of environmental law.” The judges also stated that there was an “urgent need to strengthen the capacity of judges, prosecutors, legislators and all persons who play a critical role at national level in the process of implementation, development and enforcement of environmental law.” In June 2012, the World Congress on Justice, Governance, and Law for Environmental Sustainability adopted the Rio+20 Declaration on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability, which included: “States should cooperate to build and support the capacity of courts and tribunals as well as prosecutors, auditors and other related stakeholders . . . to implement environmental law, and to facilitate exchanges of best practices in order to achieve environmental sustainability by encouraging relevant institutions, such as judicial institutes, to provide continued education.” For decades, ELI’s Judicial Education Program has been working with judges throughout the world to meet this need.

ELI works closely with the judiciary to develop educational programs and materials that meet the specific needs of a particular jurisdiction. In each state or nation, ELI also works with a local partner that is familiar with the needs of the judiciary in that locality. Since its first program in 1991, ELI has developed, presented, and participated in educational workshops on critical topics in environmental law for more than 2000 judges from 25 countries.

Our courses incorporate the latest advances in legal, scientific, public health, and economic thought, and allow interactive analysis by participants and faculty. ELI and its partners in judicial education develop environmental law manuals that serve as resources to the judiciary after the training has been completed. In collaboration with the University of New Mexico, ELI also developed a handbook for state judicial educators to use in developing training for judges, and distributed the manual to all 50 states. As an example, ELI is reducing deforestation in Indonesia through building the capacity of the judiciary to better understand and address the liability for environmental damages.

For further information contact John Pendergrass.

World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability