Judicial Education Program

New! ELI’s John Pendergrass recently sat down with the folks at Great.com to talk about our judicial education program and how ELI is making law work for people, places and the planet. Watch or listen here.

Judges play an essential role in democracy and rule of law, on environmental and related justice matters. Since 1990, ELI has assisted more than 3000 judges from 28 countries with education and resources on a wide range of topics. ELI works closely with the judiciary and local partners to design programs that appropriate for each context.

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.

 Working in the US and Around the World 

Climate Judiciary Project

In the US and around the world, there is a growing tide of litigation on climate mitigation and adaptation, climate regulation, and climate accountability matters. Judges, generalists who rarely have a background in science, are the gatekeepers of scientific evidence and in many cases the finders of fact. The Climate Judiciary Project provides the information and training needed to meet judges’ need for a basic familiarity with current climate science to keep pace with the climate issues emerging in courtrooms and the law. The project conducts education programs, produces educational materials, and fosters a better understanding of climate science and the law in the judicial community. Training and educational materials are drawn from national and international consensus scientific bodies about the physical dynamics of climate change, its impacts on different populations, and proposed solutions. The project goals are to:  

  • Develop a professional education program for judges made up of a series of stand-alone modules that can fit together to create a comprehensive course, and recruit judges to participate in part or all of it;

  • Produce slides, pre-recorded lectures, and interactive activities focused on key scientific and legal issues and disseminate them through various educational channels;

  • Organize climate talks for select groups of judges in key jurisdictions, and present at judicial conferences and law school events;

  • Identify, recruit, and train legal scholars and scientific experts willing to deliver educational offerings to additional judicial audiences using the curricular modules developed for the program;

  • Expand the network of judges willing to serve as ambassadors and vouch for the value of this professional development opportunity to their colleagues.

Deforestation and Law in Colombia

With the generous support of the Swedish Postcode Foundation, the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)and their partners, are carrying out a three-year project to transform illegal logging in Colombia.​ The project aims to build and strengthen the capacity of the country’s judicial system to hear and rule on cases related to illegal logging and other causes of deforestation. By 2022, the project intends to have created awareness and technical capacity among judges and magistrates in the four departments that have been most affected by illegal logging in Colombia: Caquetá, Guaviare, Meta, and Putumayo; in addition to other departments with high deforestation that could be added should resources be available. Furthermore, the project will train appellate judges in Tribunals and High Courts (Constitutional Court, Supreme Court of Justice and State Council) in Bogotá.

Read more about the project here.

Stopping Illegal Deforestation in Indonesia

In the summer of 2018, ELI, in partnership with the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), conducted a judicial capacity-building project in Indonesia supported by the Swedish Postcode Foundation to help judges better understand and address liability for environmental damages. The project empowered judges to become strong players in the fight against deforestation and the path toward sustainable development.

Watch: Enabling the Indonesian Judiciary to Stop Illegal Deforestations

Meeting Judges’ Needs

ELI established its Judicial Education Program in 1991 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 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, which stated: “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.

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

ELI mourns the loss of Andrew W. Savitz, who was instrumental in setting up ELI’s first judicial education program and was an early pioneer in corporate social responsibility and sustainability.

For further information, contact Sandra Nichols Thiam.