SAVE THE DATE—The 28th Annual AALJ Education Conference: “The Art of Judging”

Reno Nevada
Join your colleagues in “the Biggest Little City in the World,” Reno, NV, for the AALJ Annual Education Conference from October 21-24th.
This year’s Conference, “The Art of Judging,” will be held at the beautiful Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel (a non-gaming facility) in conjunction with the National Judicial College (NJC), the country’s premier judicial educator.  The NJC will provide all of the general session training content.  We will seek CLE approval.  Please be in town early: the Conference begins Monday evening with a reception you won’t want to miss at the NJC, where you will have an opportunity to tour the College, including its model courtroom.

Schedule and Agenda


(All Topics Approved by the National Executive Board, but Times and Faculty are Subject to Change.

All Times PDT. All General Session events will be held at the conference hotel, Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel.)

National Judicial College, University of Nevada, Reno

Faculty Biographies


Judge Thomas E. Cheffins was appointed a federal administrative law judge with the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in 2010. Prior to this appointment, Judge Cheffins was the chief administrative law judge for the Department of Public Welfare Bureau of Hearings and Appeals in Harrisburg, PA, a hearing officer for the Cumberland County Domestic Relations Office, and court administrator for the Cumberland Court of Common Pleas. Judge Cheffins received a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University, master’s degree from Shippensburg University, and Juris Doctor from Widener University School of Law where he graduated cum laude. He has taught for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, the National Association of Administrative Law Judiciary, and several other state associations, and has authored numerous publications. He is a member of the National Association of Hearing Officials. Judge Cheffins was awarded The National Judicial College’s Professional Certificate in Judicial Development in both Dispute Resolution Skills and Administrative Law Adjudication Skills. He has also received the National Association of Hearing Officials Administrative Law Judge Certification. Judge Cheffins is an alumnus of The National Judicial College and has served as faculty since 2001. He was elected to The National Judicial College Faculty Council in 2007 representing Administrative Law Jurisdiction and is a past chair.


Joseph Sawyer has been a member of The National Judicial College’s staff since 1986 and is the Distance Learning and Educational Technology Director. As such, he provides instruction to the College faculty on the use of teaching and classroom technologies. He also educates the faculty on the best methods of educating judges in a distance-learning environment in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. He has developed distance-learning workshops for judges on such topics as Handling Small Claim Cases Effectively; Select Criminal Evidence Issues; Judicial Education on Substance Abuse: Promoting and Expanding Awareness and Leadership; International Kidnapping and the Hague Convention; Evidence Challenges for Administrative Law Judges; Ethics, Bias, and Judging: Reaching Higher Ground; and Ethics, Bias, and the Administrative Law Judge; and Essential Skills for the Unemployment Adjudicator. Mr. Sawyer instructs participants on courtroom technology, evidence presentation systems, litigation support software, and technology infrastructure in courtroom design. He is a former president of the National Association of State Judicial Educators and serves on the association’s technology and diversity committees. In 2004, Mr. Sawyer was the recipient of the William R. McMahon Award presented annually by the American Bar Association Judicial Division National Conference of Specialized Court Judges for leadership in the field of technology in the courts. He was a lecturer at the Russian Academy of Justice in Moscow during the summer of 2004, the James A.A. Pierre Judicial Center in Liberia in 2009 and 2011, and in Bosnia in 2011 for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Mr. Sawyer is a graduate of the Leadership Institute for Judicial Education, and in 2006 he was accepted into the Advanced Leadership Institute for Judicial Education. He has also been a faculty member of the State Bar of Nevada since 2002. Within the United States, Mr. Sawyer has taught more than 200 educational workshops for judges and judicial branch staff in 22 states and the District of Columbia on behalf of The National Judicial College, the U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office of Immigration Review, the U.S. Department of Labor, The American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, the Occupational Health and Safety Hearing Commission, and the Administrative Office of the Courts of various states.

Mr. Sawyer has developed and produced hundreds of webcasts on topics ranging from criminal evidence, mental competency, and electronic discovery. He is the co-author of “The National Judicial College Approach to Distance Learning: Towards a Model of Best Practice” (2015), and author of “Judicial Education and Distance Learning: An Economic Imperative” (2010). Mr. Sawyer joined the faculty of The National Judicial College in 2000.


Professor Yvonne Stedham is a Foundation Professor, Professor of Management, and Chair of the Management Department at the College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). She joined the UNR faculty in 1988 and from 1999-2002 served as Chair for the Managerial Sciences Department. Professor Stedham received a Ph.D. in business and M.B.A. from the University of Kansas, and undergraduate degrees in economics and business from the University of Bonn, Germany. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in international management and mindful leadership. She is also a faculty member of the social psychology Ph.D. program. Her research covers a broad spectrum of management issues with a special focus on international and gender aspects. Most of her publications address cultural differences in business ethics. She has investigated ethical judgment and gender-based differences in compensation across a variety of countries, including Japan, the U.S., and Australia, and issues related to sexual harassment and business ethics in Germany, Italy, Brazil, Russia, and the U.S. Her most recent research concerns the relationship cultural differences, trust, and business ethics. She has served on the board of directors of numerous non-profit organizations in Northern Nevada and provides consulting and training services to many companies nationally and internationally. Her research has been published in many publications, including the “Journal of Management,” “Women in Management Review,” “Journal of Management Studies,” “Journal of Business Ethics,” “Business Ethics: A European Review,” “Journal of European Industrial Training,” and “Journal of Knowledge Management Practice.” Professor Stedham has completed the training required for the teaching certificate for the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts. She has taught MBSR based Mindfulness Programs at a variety of companies and organizations, including Microsoft, Nevada Department of Transportation, Custom Ink, National Judicial College, Nevada Air National Guard, Healing Healthcare Systems, and UNR. Professor Stedham has served as faculty for The National Judicial College since 2004.


Hon. David T. Suntag has been a State of Vermont trial court judge since 1990. After more than 25 years on the bench, he took active/retired status in 2015. He has presided over criminal, family and civil docket courts as well as multi-jurisdictional rural courts. Prior to being appointed to the bench, Judge Suntag practiced law as a trial attorney. He held the positions of Chief of the Vermont Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Division and Chief Counsel to the Vermont Commissioner of Corrections. Judge Suntag received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and his J.D. from Vermont Law School. Judge Suntag served for six years as a co-chair of the Vermont Council on Family Violence. He helped create and presided over the first integrated domestic violence docket in Vermont, an innovative program which is highlighted in his 2013 article “Procedural Fairness, Swift and Certain Sanctions: Integrating the Domestic Violence Docket” in the National Center for State Court’s (NCSC) “New Trends in State Courts 2013” publication. He has been a member of the Family Violence Advisory Committee of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), former chairman and member of the Vermont Criminal Division Oversight Committee and the Vermont Criminal Rules Committee. He has taught on many topics across the country including: procedural fairness, self-represented litigants, domestic violence (and more recently the interplay of all three topics); criminal law and procedure; bench skills; handling difficult people in the courtroom; jury issues; contempt; criminal/juvenile law and procedure; sentencing and faculty development for the National Judicial College, Association of Family and Conciliation Courts as well as for many state and other judicial education organizations. Judge Suntag has helped develop a number of recent judicial education programs, including programs on procedural fairness for the judiciary of Nuevo Leon, Mexico as well as the judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago; and a program on communicating with victims without compromising judicial neutrality for the 2017 California “Beyond the Bench” and 2018 “Juvenile Law Institute” Conferences. Judge Suntag is a trained mediator and certified Justice System Coach. He is a judicial advisor to the Civil Jury Project at NYU School of Law. He has been a faculty member of the National Judicial College since 2004.


Kelly E. Tait is an adjunct professor with the University of Nevada, Reno and a communication consultant who specializes in justice system education. Her areas of expertise include courtroom communication skills, communicating with self-represented litigants, procedural fairness, diversity and access issues, decision making, listening skills, demeanor issues, dealing with challenging people, group dynamics and leadership, customer service in the courts, and faculty development. She is also a Certified Justice System Coach. Professor Tait has taught speech communication (intercultural communication, public speaking, interpersonal and small group communication) at the University of Nevada, Reno for 20 years, as well as for the University of Maryland in Heidelberg, Germany. She has taught justice system professionals across the United States and Canada as well as in Mexico, Russia, Ukraine, Macedonia, Philippines, and the Caribbean. Professor Tait has taught for the Judicial Division of the American Bar Association, National Association of Women Judges, National Center for Courts and Media, National Association of Administrative Law Judges, National Tribal Judicial Center, California Judicial Council, Supreme Court of Virginia, and the New York State Judicial Institute, among many other organizations. She is a past president of the National Association of State Judicial Educators (NASJE) and is a long-term member of the NASJE Communications Committee and the NASJE Diversity, Fairness, and Access Committee. One of her recent publications is “Procedural Fairness: A Treat for the Brain” in Case In Point (2016;, and she is a co-author of “Handling Cases Involving Self-Represented Litigants: A National Bench Guide for Judges.” She has been on faculty of the National Judicial College since 2002.


Jill C. Tolles is an adjunct professor at the University of Nevada, Reno in the Department of Communication Studies where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication studies. She specializes in teaching public speaking, listening, and small group communication. In addition, she teaches business and professional speaking, communication between the sexes, interpersonal conflict, and interpersonal communication. Ms. Tolles has also been an instructor at Truckee Meadows Community College and Multnomah College. Previously, Ms. Tolles worked for a non-profit and then joined the private sector as the Northern Nevada regional manager for Automatic Data Processing (ADP). She serves on the school board for Saint Albert the Great Catholic School, she is the chair of the Washoe County School District’s Say Yes for Kids committee, a member of the Senate Task Force for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, and a pro bono lobbyist for Parent Leaders for Education. Ms. Tolles joined the faculty of The National Judicial College in 2013.