Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building
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Judiciary Takes Leading Role in
(Annapolis, MD — October 25, 2005) Laying the groundwork to prepare judges to handle cases involving advanced science and medical issues, the Maryland Judiciary has taken a leading role in forming the Advanced Science and Technology Adjudication Resource Center (ASTAR).
Twenty-two Circuit Court and one appellate judge from each appellate court in Maryland have been recruited for training to become “resource judges” – judges who will receive advanced bioscience, biomedical, and biotechnology training and related adjudication skills to serve their jurisdictions in a variety of roles.
These judges from Maryland commenced their training when they joined Ohio ASTAR judges for a conference, “Boot Camp in the Language of the Life Sciences,” on Oct. 7-9, 2005, at the Airlie Conference Center in Warrenton, Va.
By 2010, ASTAR hopes to certify at least 700 resource judges across the United States and in jurisdictions internationally. Maryland will serve as a resource judge preparation center for jurisdictions in the Eastern United States and internationally in Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia.
“The premise of this is not that these cases are necessarily being tried right now in Maryland’s courts, but to get ahead of that,” said Court of Appeals Judge Glenn T. Harrell, Jr., who serves as an ASTAR Leadership Director.
In addition to trying such cases, resource judges will assist their jurisdictions with bench/bar and educational leadership activities and, within ethical constraints, serve as resources to their colleagues when adjudication issues are raised by novel and complex scientific evidence.
“You can’t make them experts. The object of this is to create a group of judges distributed around the state who know more about these things than most other judges,” Judge Harrell said. “In a complex case, each side’s going to bring their experts in, and they’re going to ask them whatever questions they want to ask them. But that doesn’t mean that all of the information that the fact finder actually wants to have gets teased out. So we want these judges to be able to ask what’s missing, and to ask the right questions, and to be more discerning about what’s called ‘junk science.’” The education the judges will receive will be designed not to teach what outcomes may be appropriate, but instead to supply background to make them better adjudicators.
The ASTAR program grew out of a decade-long effort by the Einstein Institute for Science, Health, and the Courts (EINSHAC) to raise judicial consciousness about the impact on the dispute-resolution process of the human genome project through judicial science education conferences.
Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge, Robert M. Bell, was integrally involved in the EINSHAC conferences, which included a program titled “Genetics in the Courtroom,” held in Ocean City in October 1998 for the Maryland and Delaware state judiciaries.
Now Chair of the ASTAR Board of Directors, Judge Bell decided that the Maryland Judiciary’s involvement in ASTAR would build on the existing network created for the Business & Technology (B&T) Case Management Program. B&T judges who are expected to continue as judges for at least seven years were given the first opportunity to express interest in becoming ASTAR resource judges.
In addition to the Warrenton conference, the resource judges will attend national conferences and two three-day blocks of state-based training developed by the Judicial Institute of Maryland. The organizers have already spoken with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to supply instructors on the selected topics. The science programs will be accredited, and each ASTAR judge will be certified by an accreditation board, ASTAboard, on which Court of Appeals Judge Alan M. Wilner serves.
After the first resource judge “class” graduates in December 2006, ASTAR will consider adopting a plan for preparing foreign resource judges. ASTAR states will also be able to make arrangements with their federal court jurisdictions to prepare federal jurists as resource judges.
For more information, please call the Court Information Office at 410-260-1488.
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