The National Judicial College is located in Reno, Nevada. I don't know why. I always assumed that's where the founders' wagon train ran out of food and water.
Whatever the reason for the location, it's problematic. Say what you will about Reno, it is geographically undesirable for the vast majority of judges. The vast majority of judges, like the vast majority of everything else, is not in northern Nevada.
They have, what, nine judges in northern Nevada? Everybody else in America has to hop a plane, rent a car, hire a stagecoach, whatever, to get to Reno. Putting the National Judicial College in Reno was like putting the Mexican embassy in Milwaukee.
So they've always had to work very hard to get judges to attend their programs - a problem made especially exasperating by the fact California, which has more judges than gas stations, and is right across Donner Summit from the College1, has never taken full advantage of their proximity. California has enough judges to run its own continuing education programs, so the NJC has never been able to tap into the judicial mother lode that runs along the Sierras, just the other side of Truckee.
Years ago, in an attempt to showcase their wares to the California bench, the NJC offered California four scholarships for a Fourth Amendment course. I was selected for one of them. Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas phrased the letter informing me of my choice with characteristic elegance and dignity, but the bottom line, it seemed to me, was that he considered me one of the four judges in California most in need of education.2
So I polished up my blackjack technique, re-read the Fourth Amendment, and hightailed it off to Reno. It was August. It was like spending a week in a hairdryer.
Reno in August is the world's largest outdoor convection oven. Nobody missed a class; we were all afraid if we left the building before sundown, we'd combust.
I'm told it's not always that way. Apparently I was unfortunate enough to be there when the city was passing unusually close to the sun. Sure enough, my newspaper this morning predicts a high of 19 and a low of 6 for that part of Nevada. It appears that Reno, like Mercury, has both hot and cold days.
But despite the climate and the rather ego-bruising circumstances of my excommunication to the Great Basin, I had a good time in Reno. I enjoyed the classes, learned as much as I am ever capable of learning, and met some very nice people.
I was not invited back, but I've become accustomed to that. I think I might have offended them when I suggested modern technology had made the trip over Donner Summit safer, and an escape could now be safely made.
Since then, most of my education has been in-state. The California Center for Judicial Education and Research (CJER) has struggled like a woman3 to raise my consciousness, expand my horizons, and elevate my intellect. Or any combination thereof.
There seems to be some difference of opinion about their success.4
So I was pretty excited to receive an email from something called The Ark Group, announcing a seminar on "Knowledge Retention Strategies for the Government Sector." I mean, that's exactly what I need, right? A knowledge retention strategy.
I've been on the bench for 21 years and no one has ever provided me with a knowledge retention strategy. It's a wonder I haven't driven us off a cliff.
The seminar sounded great. It was in Washington D. C., which recent events have proven to be pretty much the font of all wisdom, and its objective was "Shaping the future of innovation and organizational viability through the seamless transfer and management of experience-based knowledge within the public sector," something I have hungered for as long as I've been in government service.
Colleagues will tell you I have often complained about the number of seams that mar the transfer and management of experience-based knowledge within our courts. And I have long been an outspoken advocate of a more cogent strategy for shaping the future of innovation and organizational viability - also I've been an outspoken proponent of hiring a staff urologist for the Court of Appeal, but that's rather clearly just a natural concomitant of the first two. So this seminar was perfect for me.
I don't really know anything about The Ark Group, except they know a lot of big words. And they agree with me that I need a knowledge retention strategy. And they're in Washington, D. C. Applying the same logic I used to account for the NJC's location in Reno, I can only assume the Ark Group was in Washington when the flood waters receded5, and have not yet figured out that it's safe to leave.
They've gathered together some really impressive-sounding people for this seminar. They have the "Chief Knowledge Management Officer, Federal Transit Administration," the "Chief Learning Officer, HCO/Learning Center, US Government Accountability Office," the "Risk & Knowledge Management Officer, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters," and the "Director, Knowledge Management Center of Excellence, U. S, Air Force Materiel Command."
And that's just for openers. They have CKO's and CLO's and Chief This and That's from some very important branches of government. The piece de resistance is the "Chief Knowledge Officer, U. S. Secret Service," a guy who knows a lot of stuff but usually keeps it secret. This is presumably the person who will be charged with remembering to have Iraqi journalists remove their shoes before Presidential press conferences. This is somebody I gotta meet!
I didn't even know there were such positions. I've never been a part of an organization that had a Chief Knowledge Officer or a Chief Learning Officer or a Directorate of Remembering Things or any of the wonderful titles attending this conference. It would take me a week just to think up a title that cool.
So you can imagine my dismay when I learned that the state would not pay to fly me to the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center6 in Washington D. C., for one of the fourteen seats miraculously still remaining7 when the email was sent to me.8 I was devastated. My hopes of parlaying this symposium into a position as Chief Knowledge Muckety-Muck for the California Court of Appeal or Grand Poobah in Charge of Not Forgetting Stuff were dashed with one stroke of the key.9
It appears they went on without me. Unimaginable to me, but it seems to be so. I haven't been this unhappy about missing an event since I had chicken pox the week Lady & The Tramp was released. It's a disappointment I'll just have to soldier through - although if Malcolm Lucas were still the Chief . . . .
Oh somewhere in this favored land, the sun is shining bright, the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light. And somewhere men are laughing and somewhere children shout, but there is no joy at my house, I'll remain a forgetful lout.10I just want the record to reflect that I did try to improve myself.
1. Donner Summit is where the NJC founders who pressed on past Reno ended up.
2. It's been twenty years and I've yet to develop an effective rebuttal to that conclusion, so the present Chief Justice probably shares it. I doubt it's been sheer good fortune that has resulted in every one of my requests for education funding being approved.
3. I had originally written "manfully" but many of the continuing education courses I've attended have dealt with gender bias, so I knew better this time.
4. I think they've done just fine; everyone else disagrees. I didn't say opinion was evenly split, I said it was divided.
5. I guess we can call off the search of Mt. Ararat.
6. Still another reason I wanted to go: I'm up for election in 2010. In my county, if you can juxtapose the words "Ronald" and "Reagan" in your ballot statement, you can be elected by acclamation. This was my chance.
7. It said so right on the email: 14 seats remaining.
8. I'm a little disheartened that I was apparently not in the first wave of recipients of this invitation, but having griped about being in the first wave of recipients of the Malcolm Lucas invitation, I guess I don't really have much of a case for having my feelings hurt.
9. I'm sorry, that just doesn't have the same ring to it as "one stroke of the pen." The 21st century leaves a lot to be desired in terms of imagery.
10. Yeah, well Ernest Thayer was born rich and writing humor for the San Francisco Examiner was his only job when he wrote "Casey at the Bat." He had time to make all the lines scan perfectly; I don't.