From death penalty to court records, judges also need ongoing training – Sun Sentinel

Nobody is perfect.

Even the best judges make mistakes, change their minds and lose track of changes in the law.

In Tallahassee, the job of keeping Florida judges abreast of the law falls to Florida Judiciary Education, part of the state’s Office of Court Administration.

“We are required to complete 30 hours of continuing judicial education every three years,” Broward Chief Administrative Judge Jack Tuter said. The courses are designed to keep judges abreast of changes in the law and how it is interpreted in Supreme Court appeals and cases.

Some of the most rigorous training is reserved for the toughest cases – those calling for the death penalty. Everyone on the criminal court bench has completed the week-long training at least once, and refresher training is required at least once every three years, Tuter said.

The reason is practical. “About 80% of the cases reviewed by the Supreme Court are death penalty cases,” Tuter said. “Judges need to be aware of the myriad issues that can arise.”

In the past few years alone, Florida death penalty law has changed several times, first requiring a simple majority of the jury to impose death, then a 10-to-2 majority, and finally a unanimous recommendation. Even now, Florida law is somewhat at odds with what the Supreme Court allows. A jury does not need to be unanimous to be constitutional, according to a January 2020 ruling. But the law still requires it, and the state legislature has shown no interest in revisiting the issue.

Three Broward judges will attend their death penalty refresher course on May 19, including Elizabeth Scherer, who is currently presiding over jury selection in the death penalty trial of admitted Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz.

New judges, in their freshman year, attend two weeks of what’s called Judicial College, where they learn to watch the courtroom from the bench, the ins and outs of running a role and other administrative tasks. Continuing courses can be offered at special sessions and at annual conferences, where judges can complete 15 hours of training in one week.

From there, Tuter said, most judges specialize in the area of ​​their assignments, with family court judges gravitating around family law courts, civil court judges auditing lawsuit courts. and criminal court judges sitting in criminal procedural cases.

Rafael Olmeda can be reached at rolmeda@sunsentinel.com954-356-4457 or on Twitter @rolmeda

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