Practice scenarios help judges prepare for bench

Judges new to the Ohio bench participated in a dry run in December by donning a robe, grabbing a gavel, and conducting mock trials or arraignments during the Ohio Supreme Court’s New Judge Orientation, conducted by the Ohio Judicial College.

Phil Schopick, Judicial College program manager who works on the initial orientation session, said new common pleas judges presided over mock trials, while new municipal court judges conducted mock arraignments. Teams of veteran judges, including Ottawa County Common Pleas Court Judge Bruce Winters, played the roles of litigants and court personnel in the exercises.

The real-life scenarios are intended to teach new judges how to maintain control of the courtroom, among other challenges they will be faced with on the bench, Schopick said. Afterward, the experienced judges gave their feedback on how the new judge handled the proceeding.

Forty-one judges elected or appointed during the last year attended the four-day orientation. The mock trials were tailored to fit judges’ specific jurisdictions, presenting problems common pleas general division judges, domestic relations judges and juvenile judges encounter in their courts. The mock arraignments were tailored to the issues confronting municipal court judges.

The Judicial College conducts the first week of New Judge Orientation annually in December. The group then meets again for a second week-long orientation in April to discuss any issues that have arisen since they’ve been on the bench.

 Created in 1976, the Judicial College provides continuing legal education to judges, magistrates, and non-judicial court personnel throughout the state.

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