Message from the Chief Justice

Singapore is a small island state of approximately 718 square kilometres of land with a population of only about 5.4 million people. Equally small in size is the legal profession. We have about 5,000 practising advocates and solicitors and the total number of Judges and Judicial Officers (JOs) in Singapore does not exceed 200.

With a relatively small pool of judges, judicial training and continuing education has hitherto been largely decentralised with each court taking the responsibility of organising programs suited to its own needs. Over the years, the combined efforts of the Supreme Court and the State Courts of Singapore have yielded a suite of judicial education programmes including induction programmes for new Judges and JOs, regular legal refreshers, topical workshops of judicial interest and interdisciplinary seminars. Over the last 10 years, a substantial number of judicial education events have also been extended to judges in the region through the Singapore Cooperation Programmes, Regional Judicial Symposiums, Asia-Pacific Court Conference and Judicial Governance Programmes.

When I assumed the helm of the Judiciary a little over two years ago, among the early priorities was a desire to institutionalise and pull together the various judicial education programs that had been developed over time. I considered that the time for this had come because judges today are faced with a vastly different operating climate. The people that we serve are more sophisticated and knowledgeable and have higher expectations. The legal issues that come before us have become increasingly complex and frequently involve inter-disciplinary issues and trans-border transactions. We also have seen a trend of more litigants in person. Each of these issues increases the challenges that judges face each working day. Judges today must not only be legal technocrats, they need the skills of a problem solver acclimatised to cross-cultural differences. In this environment, the need for ongoing training and education for Judges has become an imperative.

After a period of study and reflection, I am delighted that we have established the Singapore Judicial College to develop and manage these efforts. The immediate objective is to bring all our judicial training under the auspices of the College and to develop and strengthen the curricula that will enhance our ability to discharge our judicial functions. The College will leverage and build on the many streams of judicial education that have emerged over the past decade or so. This will cover not only induction and continuing training for our Judges but will also extend to the technical assistance and educational programs that we offer to judicial officers from other jurisdictions. Over the past several decades the work of the Singapore Judiciary in a number of areas including in organisational governance, the use of technology, and effective and expeditious case management has been the subject of study and the College will enable us to share some of the lessons we have learnt in these vital areas.

In addition to this, the College will develop the dimension of serving as an empirical judicial research laboratory with the aim of serving as a test bed for innovation in judicial studies and practices. The empirical research will allow new or existing practices in the courts to be tested and validated. We can experiment with new ideas and study the findings to identify areas for refinement and implementation.

I believe the possibilities for the College are as vast as our imagination. I hope our judges will find the programmes helpful and interesting not only to make us more effective judges but also to enable us to innovate for the better. I also very much look forward to the collaboration and participation of our counterparts from abroad. As we enrich our judicial learning, we forge enduring relationships.

Finally, I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Board of Governors of the College chaired by Justice Andrew Phang. It will be a challenging but exciting task to have the opportunity to chart fresh directions for the work of the College and I know the Governors will do a superb job. I must especially thank Justice (Retd) John Dyson Heydon AC QC and Professor Joseph Weiler for so readily accepting the appointment as a member of the Board of Governors and selflessly agreeing to give of his time and experience to the growth of the College. I wish the College every success.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon
January 2015