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Local justice of the peace to teach his colleagues

By Gheni_Platenburg
Sept. 9, 2010 at 4:09 a.m.
Updated Sept. 16, 2010 at 4:16 a.m.


The old saying goes, those who can - do, while those who can't - teach.

In the case of local justice of the peace Robert Whitaker, however, he does both.

Whitaker, 57, will serve as an instructor to other justices of the peace during the 2010-2011 Texas Justice Court Training Center seminars.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Whitaker. "I think it will be a rewarding experience."

Whitaker, who has served as the justice for Precinct 3 since 2007, received the formal invitation to teach in July 2009.

He completed his new faculty training during the end of August in Galveston.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Texas requires justices of the peace to complete 80 hours of judicial training within one year of taking office and 20 hours each year thereafter.

Most often, justices of the peace receive training through the Texas Justice Court Training Center.

The Center, located at Texas State University at San Marcos, is a grant-funded program that provides educational opportunities for the justices of the peace, constables and court personnel throughout the state.

The classes are offered at various times in cities around Texas.

Whitaker will teach seminars for justices of the peace on the rights of the accused and victims' rights, the latter of which holds personal sentiment for the judge.

In both 2009 and 2010, he was recognized during National Crime Victims' week for his service to victims in the area.

During his time on the bench, Whitaker said, he often sees victims of domestic abuse, both men and women, come through his courtroom.

"One of my concerns is doing what I can as a magistrate to help the victims of crimes in situations like that," said Whitaker as he discussed his ability to issue emergency protective orders and set bail and bond conditions. "I can give this victim some degree of peace of mind."

His first seminar is scheduled for Nov. 14 in Tyler. He expects to have 50 to 100 students.

Whitaker's students can look forward to innovative, technology-infused seminars that will include quizzes, games and Microsoft PowerPoint presentations.

"What we are finding out is that even with justices of the peace, education gets tiring and boring so they're trying to always come up with new ways to improve that learning experience," said Whitaker. "If you are involving the audience and actively engaging them by playing a quiz or a game, it helps to keep the audience tuned in."

Through the engaging teaching techniques, Whitaker said his students would leave more knowledgeable about Texas Statutory law, Supreme Court decisions and new developments within laws pertaining to victims' rights.

"So much research goes into the preparation process," said Whitaker. "There's been a large growth of law in the area of victim's rights."

He continued, "It certainly continues to be a learning experience for me as well."

Other local justices of the peace were happy to hear of their colleague's faculty appointment. "I think it's great that he's doing that," said Stuart Posey, justice for Precinct 2. "It is a great reflection on justices of the peace here."

Whitaker's legal background will also prove helpful in teaching justices of the peace from around the state.

In 1975, Whitaker graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science/pre-law from Baylor University.

Two years later, he received his juris doctorate from Baylor Law School.

Whitaker worked for a number of years as a lawyer in Victoria and served four years as municipal judge for the City of Victoria.

He is the primary justice of the peace to handle magistration work in Victoria County.

"I just hope that the public recognizes that there are judges here that are striving to be the best, most proficient, most competent judges they can," said Whitaker. "We take our jobs seriously and hope to share that with our colleagues in other counties."

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