Resource: Explore the Unique Challenges Faced in Special Courts – The National Judicial College

Chancery court. Court of claims. Magisterial court. Municipal court. These are just a few of the names given to courts of limited jurisdiction, or “special courts.” About 66% of the nation’s cases are processed in a special court. In 2009, this represented about 106 million cases. Special courts generally focus on a particular type of case; judges who preside in special courts generally have a high-volume caseload and significant contact with the public. While many of the issues faced by special court judges mirror those faced by general jurisdiction judges, there are many issues unique to judges who preside in special courts.1

To address these unique issues, The National Judicial College is offering two of its flagship courses, Special Court Jurisdiction and Special Court Jurisdiction: Advanced, the first two weeks of June. Special Courts is primarily intended for limited jurisdiction magistrates and judges who did not attend law school. Special Courts: Advanced is intended for judges who attended law school or who attended the Special Courts course.

In addition to covering substantive areas of criminal law and procedure, domestic violence, ethics, evidence, contempt and trial disruption, these courses offer sessions in broader interpersonal skills such as the role of the judge, stress management, procedural fairness, court culture and governance, and effective communication.

Practical skills such as how to take a guilty plea, what to do when dealing with self-represented litigants or if you encounter non-citizens in traffic court, social media, handling small claims and traffic cases, jury issues, case management, legal writing, and court security are also taught. Developing trends like drug courts, addictive behavior and psychopharmacology, and other therapeutic specialty programs are also covered. For the first time, an evidence workshop will be offered that replicates scenarios encountered in the courtroom.

Whether you are a new judge or more experienced judge presiding in a special court, these courses are invaluable and focus on the essential skills that you will utilize daily in your courtroom. For more information about the course, contact Christine Folsom Smith at 1-800-25-JUDGE.

Note: For a detailed synopsis of the challenges and opportunities faced by special court judges, visit the National Center for State Court’s website at


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